This week the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft relating to a method of iris recognition that could be incorporated into a future Surface smartphone, tablet, notebook and beyond. Microsoft's method may comprise obtaining image data of a plurality of digital image frames captured of an assumed eye having an iris and a pupil while illuminating the assumed eye from different directions; obtaining comparison data dependent on similarities in parts of image data of at least two of the plurality of digital image frames corresponding to an area of interest of the assumed eye; and automatically determining, on the basis of the comparison data, presence of a verification feature in the assumed eye indicating a real eye.
Microsoft's photo method verifies if the iris is from a living person or a still photograph. The system may be designed to take two or three photos of the eye for analysis and comparison with a file image of the owner's iris.
The future Surface smartphone #600 of FIG. 6 illustrated below can take multiple photos of the user's eye with lighting coming from two or three directions. Each photo captured while illuminating the assumed eye from one of those direction, may be used for detecting the characteristic feature(s) in the iris of the assumed eye. Similarly, image data of all those three digital image frames may be used for determining the presence of the verification feature(s) in the assumed eye.
Microsoft notes in their patent filing that a human eye is a three-dimensional structure which is partially transparent. For example, light can be transmitted through the pupil towards the retina of the eye. The three dimensional nature and the partial transmittance of a real human eye may result in that, with specific differences in the illumination between the two digital image frames, there are areas or points in the eye with one or more features producing differences in the image data of the two digital image frames. Such differences in the image data may therefore indicate a real eye. Lack of any substantial difference between the image data of the two digital image frames for such area or point may indicate that the assumed eye is not a real eye but, for example, an image of an eye.
Microsoft further explains that "A characteristic feature" of the iris refers to any characteristic property of the iris, which property is detectable and which can be used to identify or recognize the iris, i.e. to determine that the iris at issue belongs to an eye of a particular person. "At least one characteristic feature" may actually comprise a plurality of, i.e. a set of characteristic features, which may enhance the reliability of recognition or identification process. Such set of characteristic features may be detected, for example, along the circumference of the annular iris, and coded, for example, into a two-dimensional feature map, such as a bar code or a QR (Quick Response) code. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, a plurality of characteristic features #207 are coded to form such two-dimensional chart.
Lastly, Microsoft notes that their Iris ID system may be used in many future devices including a smartphone, tablet, Xbox, HoloLens, Surface Books. Other examples could include cash dispensers, automated teller machines, and various types of electronic payment terminals.
Microsoft filed their patent application back in Q4 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Last week Patently Mobile posted two Microsoft patent applications covering a foldable Surface smartphone and the introduction of 3D Touch (hover interactions) and magnification features for a future smartphone.
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