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You could soon be unlocking your smartphone using an ear-print

A new security system being developed by Yahoo Labs could let users unlock their smartphone just by holding it up to their ear.

The system, which is called Bodyprint, uses a device’s touchscreen as a low resolution scanner capable of picking out unique features and identifying a person, and it could lead to folk unlocking their device using an ‘ear print’ rather than a fingerprint or passcode.

A capacitive screen, which offers up an input resolution of about 6 dpi, may be too inaccurate to pick up the intricacies of a fingerprint, but it appears to be more than enough to spot the unique arches and ridges of an ear, and as an added bonus, as touchscreens increase in accuracy, so too could Bodyprint, potentially leading to more unique methods of recognition.

According to the project’s website “Bodyprint brings biometric authentication to commodity mobile devices using the capacitive touchscreen as a low-resolution, but large-area image sensor to reliably identify users based on their ears, fists, or grips when pressed against the touchscreen. To accept an incoming call, the user places the touchscreen onto his ear. Bodyprint extracts features from the raw capacitive image to identify the user.”

The team behind the system has so far tested it on a range of difference prints, including people’s ears, palms, fists and fingers, and they’ve had a success rate of 99.8 per cent, making it far safer than the likes of face unlock, which can be defeated with a wallet-sized photo of the device’s owner.

If the technology is found to be suitable for use in the wild, it could bring a much-needed new layer of security to cheaper devices which haven’t been kitted out with expensive fingerprint readers or other top-tier biometric systems, and the it could also offer disabled users greater security over their device with none of the inconvenience.

The project is still very much in its infancy, but the team is now looking to expand their research to allow testing on a wider scale – so it might not be too long before you can squidge any part of your body against your screen to gain access.

What a world that would be!

 

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