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Future Apple Watches may identify users by their wrists

Future Apple Watches could identify users via bioauthentication when the smartwatch is placed on a wrist. Apple has filed for a patent (number 20190095602) for a “wearable electronic device having a light field camera usable to perform bioauthentication from a dorsal side of a forearm near a wrist.”

The tech giant says that this could be very convenient. An electronic device may include a fingerprint sensor, a facial recognition sensor, a retina scanner, or other form of bioauthentication sensor. In some devices, such as a phone or tablet computer, a bioauthentication sensor may be provided adjacent (or as part of) a display of the device. 

However, in a wearable electronic device such as a watch, there may be little or no room for providing a bioauthentication sensor adjacent (or as part of) a display of the device. Apple says that user authentication may therefore be provided by means of a password or similar input. 

However, the company feels that wrist bioauthentication would be more convenient. And I wonder if such technology means that different users could wear the same Apple Watch with its settings changed to accommodate the current wearer.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A method of authenticating a user of a wearable electronic device includes emitting light into a dorsal side of a forearm near a wrist of the user; receiving, using a light field camera, remissions of the light from the dorsal side of the forearm near the wrist of the user; generating a light field image from the remissions of the light; performing a synthetic focusing operation on the light field image to construct at least one image of at least one layer of the forearm near the wrist; extracting a set of features from the at least one image; determining whether the set of features matches a reference set of features; and authenticating the user based on the matching. In some embodiments, the method may further include compensating for a tilt of the light field camera prior to or while performing the synthetic focusing operation.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.