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Better facial recognition support coming to Android soon?

Facial recognition has been an Android fixture since 2011, but it could receive an upgrade soon.

Published onJune 4, 2018

honor 10 face unlock
  • A new commit in the Android Open Source Project hints at more advanced facial recognition in Android.
  • The commit suggests that only one face template can be made by the user, which isn’t ideal for shared devices.
  • One of Google’s Pixel 3 devices is rumored to have dual front cameras — could one of these be for facial recognition?

Android has had facial recognition technology for over six years, but the mobile platform could get more advanced facial authentication support soon.

A new commit, called “add face authentication framework,” has been spotted in the Android Open Source Project (via 9to5Google), suggesting Android is moving beyond the basic technology first seen in 2011’s Android 4.0.

The commit indicates that, unlike fingerprint recognition, only one face template can be harnessed by the user on the device; those who share devices would likely need to stick to another unlock method like fingerprint or PIN authentication. The function may continuously refine that single template though, like Apple’s Face ID.

Pixel 3 concept
A Pixel 3 concept by the Phone Designer Twitter account. Via Phone Designer

An Intel employee is one of the people behind the commit but we don’t know in what capacity the company is involved. Does it have facial recognition hardware in the works for the platform and/or the Pixel 3?

Intel has its RealSense computer vision platform and has also recently demonstrated facial recognition payments over 5G. So it’s clearly got some experience with face-related technologies. It wouldn’t be the first time Intel contributed technology to a Pixel either, producing the Pixel Visual Core chip in the Pixel 2.

As for when we might see the technology roll out, the commit hints that the Pixel 3 duo, expected to arrive in September/October, could be the first devices to come with it. The most recent Pixel 3 rumors suggest dual front cameras for at least one model, which could be a clue that it will support advanced facial recognition.

The Xiaomi Mi 8 and its notch sensors.
The Xiaomi Mi 8 is the latest smartphone with facial recognition. Via MIUI Forum

Facial authentication technology has seen a resurgence following the Face ID-toting iPhone X’s release. In the past six months, everyone from Huawei and Samsung to OnePlus and Xiaomi have dabbled in the technology. The one constant is that none of these are as secure as Apple’s solution, which lets you make payments.

Nevertheless, the latest commit should help smaller Android manufacturers with fewer resources, allowing them to deliver better facial recognition too. When could these brands grab the feature? All eyes will be on Android P, expected to arrive alongside the Pixel 3 in September/October.

What do you make of the news? Do you prefer face unlock or fingerprint authentication? Let us know in the comments below!

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