Windows 8 facial recognition moves closer to reality

We've known for almost a year that Microsoft is building facial recognition technology into Windows 8, potentially offering a more secure (and fun) way to log into your computer.

Now it appears Microsoft is getting closer to making this reality, according to websites that have published leaked early builds of the next-generation operating system.

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A "detect human presence" API is in an early copy of Windows 8, according to an article on Slashgear which links back to leaked Windows 8 images published by Windows8Italia.

Details are scarce, but this could be related to facial recognition technologies noted in mid-2010 in Windows 8 planning documents that Microsoft shared with partners.

After those planning documents were leaked last year, we reported the following:

By 2012 sensors such as microphones, cameras, GPS, accelerometers, and temperature and magnetic sensors will be common in most PCs, allowing Windows 8 to interact with the user's environment in new and interesting ways.

One scenario uses facial recognition software to verify a user's identity.

"Amish walks into his home office," Microsoft writes in one of many fictional scenarios outlined in the Windows 8 slide decks. "The proximity sensor on his PC detects motion, and wakes the PC. By the time Amish sits down, his PC is powered up. It scans his face and logs him in. Finally, when Amish gets up and leaves, his PC notices that he's gone and locks itself and powers down."

Windows 8 may also eliminate the need for remembering passwords across multiple websites.

"Password pain has reached a tipping point," Microsoft says. "Windows 8 could include a way to securely store usernames and passwords, simplifying the online experience."

That squares with another part of what Windows8Italia is reporting. According to a Google translation, the early build of Windows 8 suggests it "will be possible to access the personalization, bookmarks and content from any computer."

Microsoft already offers facial recognition on gaming systems through Kinect and Xbox Live. Lenovo announced facial recognition login in laptops as far back as 2007, and built-in cameras are pretty standard in computers nowadays. Building facial recognition into Windows 8 itself would greatly expand use of the technology.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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Jon Brodkin

Network World
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