Apple files face recognition patent, iPad 3 rumors persist

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publishes patent application detailing Cupertino's technology to offer "low-computational" face recognition capabilities, while new rumors surface of two iPad 3 models.

Apple has filed a new patent application that would allow its iPhone and iPad users to access the device via face recognition.

According to Apple Insider blog, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published the application which detailed a low-computation tool for recognizing users via their facial features.

iOS users with a forward-facing camera device would be able to customize their profile with personalized wallpaper, apps and settings, and access this profile when the device recognizes their face.

The application added that robust facial recognition systems that worked under various lighting conditions could be taxing on an electronic device and require resources that drained battery life.

Apple's technology would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. In its filing, Cupertino described a "low-computation solution for reasonably effective, low threshold, face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances".

Instead of analyzing a user's entire face which would consume time and resources, Apple's proposed patent would depend on "high information portion" of a human face, such as the eyes, mouth and tip of the nose. It would measure the distance between a user's eyes and mouth, and reference this against the original image to ascertain the identity of the user.

Because it consumes lower power, the face recognition function could be constantly active, potentially allowing users to turn on the screen and unlock their iOS device by pointing it at their face.

According to Apple Insider, Cupertino had first filed the patent in June 2009. The Apple dedicated news site added that the iPhone maker in September 2010 was rumored to have acquired Swedish facial recognition company, Polar Rose.

Embedding face recognition functions on mobile devices is not a new concept. More recently in Chicago, U.S., over 50 bars participated in the launch of a new app that allowed smartphone users to scout the bar scene using face detection software.

Pair of iPad 3 tablets to be released?
In other Apple news, Cupertino is rumored to be prepping the launch of two versions of its next-generation iPad tablets. According to a report Thursday by Taiwanese English daily DigiTimes, the launch is slated for Jan. 26 next year at the MacWorld|iWorld conference and will feature a high-end model with 8-megapixel camera as well as a mid-range version with 5-megapixel camera.

The rumored iPads would still feature 9.7-inch screens but would have retina display with a doubled resolution of 2,048 pixels by 1,536 pixels.

DigiTimes added that the new tablets were rumored to sport QXGA resolution with dual LED light-bars to boost the brightness of the display. It said Sharp would be a major panel supplier for the display of iPad 3, while Samsung and LG would also be manufacturing some panels.

Other sites, however, have dismissed DigiTimes' claims as baseless.

Jim Dalrymple from The Loop, another news site dedicated to Apple related developments, said: "These rumors are completely false. I checked with a number of my sources today and an iPad 3 is not planned for release at Macworld. In case you're wondering, an iPad 3 won't be released at CES (Consumer Electronic Show) either."

Apple Insider also described the DigiTimes as "questionable" since Apple in 2008 said it would no longer attend the Macworld and would instead unveil products at its own media events. Cupertino was indeed a no-show at Macworld Expo in 2009