Using your face as a password to unlock your smartphone has become a lot easier. All you have to do is look at the phone’s front-facing sensor/camera to let it identify your face and instantly unlock the screen.
Google rolled out its face unlocking feature in Android 4.0 in 2011 but it didn’t click as the process was slow and inconsistent. The interest in face unlocking was revived in March 2017, with the launch of Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. But it was the Face ID in Apple iPhone X, launched in September 2017, which has made face one of the most coveted unlocking tool in modern-day smartphones.
How it works
Apple’s Face ID is powered by a True Depth camera system, which analyses 30,000 invisible dots on the user’s face to create a unique 3D model that is saved in an encrypted enclave on the phone’s chip. When a user wants to unlock the iPhone X, the infrared (IR) camera will read the dot pattern and capture an infrared image and send it to the secure enclave for verification. Apple even allows the face ID to be used for authentication during payments.
Unlike the iPhone X, phones from companies like LG, Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi and OnePlus rely only on the front camera and some facial recognition algorithms for authentication. OnePlus 5t and 6 use the front camera to analyse over 100 identifiers on a user’s face such as the distance between the eyes or distance between nose and upper lip and then compare it to the face enrolled by user for authentication.
According to Kaspersky Labs, “an inexpensive phone’s facial recognition relies on just the front-facing camera and some not-so-advanced algorithms. But a regular 2D camera without an IR sensor or dot projector can be easily fooled by photos snagged from a social media profile and printed on paper or shown on a screen.”
Companies manufacturing Android smartphones have acknowledged that face unlocking is not as secure as a fingerprint sensor or typing a password. Samsung S9 runs a disclaimer that “face recognition is less secure than other screen lock methods such as iris scan, pattern, PIN and password. Your phone can be unlocked by someone who looks similar to you, such as a twin.” Xiaomi offers a similar disclaimer on the Redmi Note 5 Pro. OnePlus, too, does not see its face unlocking as an alternative to fingerprint and considers it more of a convenience tool. It doesn’t allow the face feature to be used for authentication for payments.
Dealing with the issue
Vivo recently updated its face unlock tool to make it more secure. Samsung has combined the less secure facial recognition tool with iris scanning to offer a two-layer protection to users. OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said in a blog post in November that the OnePlus phones would get an update to help them understand whether the subject is emitting light (a phone) versus reflecting (your actual face) by analyzing shadows, and bright areas.
“After five unsuccessful attempts, Face Unlock is deactivated, requiring you to use the fingerprint sensor,” it reads. Huawei is said to be working on a 3D face mapping tool, similar to Apple’s Face ID.
Since users have consented to using a weak authentication factor, there is no way they can hold the phone firm liable because it also provides more secure options such as a pass phrase or pass pattern, says Sunil Abraham, executive director at the Centre for Internet and Society. Users can exercise caution and use the other password options till more secure versions are available.
Google Assistant Can Now Wake You Up by Gradually Turning on Your Smart Lights
Google Assistant has received a Gentle Sleep & Wake feature that will enable your Google Home device to set a routine and gradually turn lights on or off over the course of 30 minutes. The feature will work with Philips Hue smart lights to gently wake you up in the morning or go to sleep at night by adjusting the lighting in your room. This essentially mimics a sunrise and sunset. Google has initially brought the smart feature in Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, UK, and the US in English only.
Utilising the new addition, you just need to ask “Turn on Gentle Wake up” after activating Google Assistant on your Google Home device by saying, “Hey Google.” This will automatically pair your daily morning alarms with gradual brightening of your Philips Hue lights. However, it is worth noting here that you need to speak the Gentle Wake Up command on the same Google Home device on which you set your alarms on.
Similarly, you can ask Google Assistant “Sleep my lights” to gradually start dimming your Philips Hue lights. You can also programme the command for up to 24 hours in advance. Further, you can precisely tell Google Assistant to dim lights of a particular room by saying, “Hey Google, sleep the lights in the living room.”
Google Assistant can also gradually brighten your Philips Hue lights at the time you set and can be set up to 24 hours in advance by saying, “Hey Google, wake up my lights at 6:30am.”
Additionally, Google has made the Google Assistant smarter to enable your Google Home device to tune out ambient noises. You just have to say, “Hey Google, play white noise” and see the new change in your room.
Google Home in your room can also help you try out a short meditation or a sleep exercise. You have to ask, “Hey Google, tell Headspace I’m ready for bed” or “Hey Google, I want to meditate.” This will trigger Google Assistant to give you recommendations such as healing sounds and sleep sounds through your Home device.
For someone who wants to enable Google Home Hub to save step-by-step recipes for later use, Google has made a “My Cookbook”. Google Home Hub can also play workout videos by saying “Hey Google, show me barre workout videos.” Moreover, Google Home devices can also read out audiobooks for you once you say, “Hey Google, ready my book.” You can also say, “Hey Google, stop playing in 20 minutes” to set a timer for bedtime reading each night.
Asus ZenFone Live L2 With 3,000mAh Battery, Gradient Finish Launched
Asus ZenFone Live L2 has been quietly introduced by the Taiwanese computing giant. Currently listed on the Asus’ global website, the smartphone is a successor to the company’s ZenFone Live L1 phone that was launched in May last year. Asus ZenFone Live L2 runs on obsolete Android 8 Oreo and sports a dated design with massive top and bottom bezels. There is no word on the pricing or availability details of the phone at this point.
According to the official listing, Asus will be releasing the ZenFone Live L2 smartphone in two colour options – Rocket Red and Cosmic Blue – both of which come with a gradient finish.
Asus ZenFone Live L2 specifications
The dual-SIM (Nano) Asus ZenFone Live L2 runs on Android Oreo with the company’s ZenUI 5 on top. The phone features a 5.5-inch HD (720×1440 pixels) IPS display with 18:9 aspect ratio, 400 nits brightness, and 82.3 percent screen-to-body ratio. It will be powered by quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC, depending on the market, paired with Adreno 505 and Adreno 308 GPU respectively. Additionally, the ZenFone Live L2 packs 2GB of RAM, 16GB/ 32GB of onboard storage, and a dedicated microSD card slot (up to 2TB).
On the imaging front, Asus will be offering a 13-megapixel or 8-megapixel primary camera with an f/2.0 lens. There will also be a 5-megapixel f/2.4 selfie shooter as well on the front.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 4G LTE support, and Micro-USB 2.0. Further, ZenFone Live L2 includes a 3,000mAh battery and a 3.5mm audio jack. The dimension of the phone are 147.26×71.77×8.15mm and it weighs 140 grams.
Microsoft unveils new Xbox all-digital edition
Microsoft has unveiled its Xbox One S All-Digital Edition for $249 which would be available starting May 7.
This is a new model that will be sold alongside the original Xbox One S and the more powerful Xbox One X.
“A disc-free, completely digital Xbox One is no longer just a rumoured pipe dream for cord cutters and the current generation of Fortnite fanatics who’ve never had to set foot inside of a GameStop.
“The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition will hit retailers on May 7 for $250 (that’s $50 less than the Xbox One S) and it’s available for pre-order today,” Engadget reported on Tuesday.
The new console comes with three popular Microsoft-owned titles, namely Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3 and Minecraft.
“The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is $50 less than Xbox One S and we expect to maintain at least this price difference between the two consoles,” Jeff Gattis, General Manager of Platform and Devices Marketing at Microsoft was quoted as saying by The Verge. There’s also a special offer on Xbox Game Pass, the monthly subscription service that includes access to more than 100 games.