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Apple’s newest patents hint at constant, AI-based user recognition

Published Mar 4th, 2019 8:15PM EST
Apple Lighthouse AI
Image: Arcansel / Shutterstock

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Technology giants, thankfully, are increasingly moving us toward a future with less of a reliance on passwords via technologies like face authentication, Touch ID and the like. Apple, for its part, may have had something along these lines in mind with its purchase of the patent portfolio of the defunct company Lighthouse AI, which focused on home security camera technology.

Official word of the portfolio’s reassignment appeared in the US Patent and Trademark Office database in recent weeks, according to an Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) magazine report on Monday.

Some of them are focused on depth-sensing technology, such as a “computer vision-based security system using a depth camera.” Apple bought the patents in December, which is around the same time Lighthouse itself shut down in the face of competition from the likes of such companies as Nest and Ring that of course dominate its market.

Not enough people apparently wanted to pay the nearly $300 to buy Lighthouse’s camera and subscribe to its service to enable some artificial intelligence-powered features. The interesting thing, though, is that Lighthouse’s camera had a few other tricks up its sleeve, as noted by Appleinsider — including 3D sensing and facial recognition that could remember homeowners as well as frequent visitors to a home.

That’s apparently what intrigued Apple, in addition to features like Lighthouse’s push notifications that would even give you a head’s up when a designated person was coming home.

There’s some speculation that Apple isn’t doing this to get into same market Lighthouse failed at. So perhaps Apple could use the patents for a new kind of passive, constant user authentication, eliminating the need to constantly enter something like a password? Apple’s intention for these patents may also become clearer in tandem with its augmented reality ambitions.

For example, Apple’s rumored AR headset that could arrive next year or in 2021 would have depth detection as one of its core technologies, something that this kind of constant authentication would certainly be a useful addition to. Apple has made privacy a key piece of its corporate identity, so whatever Apple is planning along these user authentication lines will certainly be interesting to watch.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.