How many options do you have right now for unlocking your smartphone? PIN, pattern, trusted Bluetooth device, voice, face, fingerprint… the list goes on and on. With so many choices already out there, how’s a manufacturer supposed to innovate? Sure, we hear rumors about iris-based unlocking every once in a while, and now a newly issued Amazon patent offers another system worth considering, as it describes a method for authenticating smartphone users based on the shape of their ears.
Like fingerprints, the shape the ridges and folds forming our ears take is quite unique, and can be used to positively identify users with a high degree of accuracy. Amazon proposes a system that uses one or more front-facing cameras on your smartphone to take a picture of your ear as you might raise your phone to your head to accept a call. By analyzing that pic and comparing it against an authenticated image of your ear, the phone’s software would be able to recognize you as its rightful user.
It’s an interesting idea, but we wonder if it’s not flawed. After all, the vast majority of the time we pull our phones out of our pocket, we’re not doing so to answer a call, and having to raise the phone to our ear just to check our email might get annoying fast. And while Amazon describes a system that could work with a single front-facing camera, its enthusiasm for a multiple-camera system as described in the patent might be a hard sell these days following the failure of the similarly multi-camera-equipped Fire Phone.