Google uses a novel approach for face recognition on Pixel phones.

Google uses a novel approach for face recognition on Pixel phones.

According to three former workers of the Alphabet Inc subsidiary who are familiar with the operations, facial recognition made its return to the newest Google Pixel phones on Thursday after a brief pause due to issues on cost and performance.

When compared to Apple Inc.’s Face ID unlocking system, the new Pixel 7’s implementation is worse because it is less reliable in dim lighting and easier to spoof. Google has also stated that it is not safe enough to use for app sign-in or in-app purchases.

After facing criticism for the technology’s weak performance on people of colour, Google has become more cautious about releasing products that use facial recognition. Following the release of the last Pixel in 2018, one of the sources claims that the business reviewed its method of teaching and testing facial recognition in preparation for its 2019 release.

Google did not answer a few specific queries about its face unlock history. It basically said, “Face Unlock is available on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro thanks to sophisticated machine learning models for facial recognition, but we’re using a slightly different approach this time around.”

We get high quality results from the front-facing camera, it went on to say.

While Google has been working on a face unlock system for Android phones for at least a decade, the arrival of Apple’s Face ID in September 2017 reportedly increased the company’s urgency.

One of the insiders mentioned that Google had been having trouble coming up with a solution that was fast and secure enough to prevent spoofing, in which photographs or extremely convincing costumes are used to trick a phone into unlocking for someone else.

For a while, engineers considered making users prove their “liveness” by smiling or blinking in order to prevent spoofing, but the process was cumbersome and time-consuming, as the source explained.

Apparently, Google executives approved of a similar technique after the release of Apple’s Face ID, which employs a depth-sensing and infrared camera dubbed TrueDepth to map a face, was widely publicised. Google’s 2019 Pixel 4 infrared depth-sensing setup is known as uDepth.

There was only a 1 in 50,000 chance that it would unlock a phone for an illegal face, and it worked effectively even in low light, as claimed by Google.

The equipment, however, was quite pricey. In addition, Apple sells 240 million iPhones annually, whereas Google has only reached a few million, meaning that Apple gets much better deals on components because of its massive sales volume.

According to the sources, Google ditched uDepth in the Pixel 5 in 2020 because to financial constraints.

According to two insiders, Google decided to hold off on implementing face masking in the Pixel 6 last year so that they could do more study.

The new phones use a regular front-facing camera for the face unlock feature. However, Google claims that spoofing chances are greater than 20% (for example, by holding up a user’s photo), which is beyond the 7% level it requires to be regarded most “safe,” hence the new approach cannot securely unlock apps and payments.

Google acknowledges that factors such as dim lighting and eyewear can hinder face unlock and points out that fingerprint unlock is still an option.


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