The most important piece of technology in this device is not the beautiful edge-to-edge display, but the part of the phone that prevents the display from being truly edge-to-edge. The notch or ‘sensor housing’ at the top of the iPhone X contains a regular camera, an infrared camera, a dot projector and a flood illuminator. All of these pieces work with the neural engine in the new A11 Bionic chip to run a neural network that processes the data from those two cameras and compares it to a known model safely in the Secure Enclave. The point of this incredible engineering effort is to allow your iPhone X to know that you are the one looking at it and not someone else.
If this complicated process works correctly, then you will never notice it, and that is the entire point. Your phone will only let you access your texts, banking and photos while denying access to others. There is no passcode to enter, no need to scan your fingerprint. You are looking at your phone and your phone is looking back. It just works. This really is the essence of why Face ID represents the future of computing; it uses machine learning and advanced sensors to make the technology invisible.
The long wait in line early Friday morning for the new iPhone X
Reality Aware Computing
Enabling computers to understand the world around them and blend into the background is a fundamental trend. Standalone voice assistants respond only when their trigger phrase is used and can identify who invoked them. The Apple Watch knows that it’s on your wrist, but as soon as you take it off your wrist, the watch locks itself. AirPods know when they are in your ears and when they are in their case and behave accordingly. The killer feature for AR Glasses is going to be understanding what you’re looking at and providing relevant information seamlessly.
The Future of Face ID
I have no doubts that FaceID will eventually make its way to not only new iPhones, but also iPads and Macs. I also believe the technology will continue to improve to allow multiple registered faces. At that point we could have a shared computer that signs you in and authenticates you the moment you sit down. In a few years we will remember the iPhone X not for its revolutionary new design or screen technology, but for something much less visible, for the technology working seamlessly in the background.