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User Identification And Response: Early Indications Of A Renaissance

Speaking of Kinect...considering the prevalence of cameras now built into smartphones, tablets, and the bezels of laptops, all-in-one desktops and standalone computer displays, I've long waited for software developers to harness the hardware potential in identifying and reacting to who's currently in front of the image sensor. For example, wouldn't it be cool if my computer saw that it was me (or someone else with an account on that machine) and automatically user-switched over to the appropriate profile? I suspect, in fact, that the delay is predominantly due to lingering immaturity (therefore inaccuracy) of facial recognition technology.

Recent signs suggest that progress is being made in translating potential to reality. Kinect already enables the Xbox 360 to associate game players to Avatars, for example. And a recently filed Microsoft patent harnesses Kinect to more fundamentally control user access to games and other forms of console-served content. As the Slashdot coverage summarizes, it:

proposes to restrict access to TV, movies and video games by using a 3D depth camera to estimate viewers' ages based upon the dimensions and proportions of a person's body, such as head width to shoulder width, and torso length to overall height. For adults with short arms or other seemingly childlike proportions, settings can be overridden by someone with an administrator password.

Next, consider Nokia. Just-released (albeit still with a beta tag) Facelock (as its name suggests) snaps a static image of your face and, if deemed acceptable, uses it to automatically unlock the phone. Arguably, a simple swipe or preconfigured PIN code entry is simpler, but not nearly as futuristic. Facelock is currently available in Nokia's Ovi Store for Symbian 3-based handsets. A Windows Phone embrace will presumably also emerge when Microsoft O/S-based phones are released by the company, but nothing official has yet been announced in this regard.