Google eye tracking unlock patent revealed
By Chris Wood
August 8, 2012
A patent filed in November of last year shows plans for an eye tracking unlock system. The plans strongly suggest that the feature is intended for use with Google Glass, Mountain View’s hot-topic, wearable-tech product.
Google Glass, the wearable augmented-reality headset, is a product that has received a great deal of media attention, and one that the company hopes will sit at the forefront of the wearable-tech market when it hits shelves sometime in 2014. It features a real-time heads-up display that aims to provide users with useful services including weather updates, voice-activated messaging and maps.
The augmented reality headset doesn't have a touchscreen, so a common slide-to-unlock system found on the majority of modern smart phones and tablets would be impossible to implement on the device. Google appear to be working on a camera-based tracking system that will resolve the issue of intuitively unlocking a device without a touchscreen.
The technology works by generating a moving object on the head-mounted display (HMD) of the device, while tracking the movement of the wearer’s pupil. The computer then determines whether there is a significant correlation between the path of the image on the screen and the movement of the eye. The user may also be able to configure the device to unlock by tracking the movement of the eye when reading text displayed on the HMD.
Although the patent states that the functionality of the device is reduced when in locked mode, it’s unclear how the user would actually trigger the unlocking procedure. Despite this lack of clarity, the nature of the technology is strongly in keeping with the hands-free ethos of the device, and of wearable tech as a whole.
Google isn’t new to camera-based unlocking. The fourth version of the company’s Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, introduced Face Unlock, an option that allows the device to track and store the face of the user thus making the owner the only person with the means to unlock the device. If the technology detailed in the patent ever becomes a reality, then Google will be building on its experience and attempting to create an innovative and simple way to unlock its flagship wearable tech product.