Get ready for your close-up, iPhone users.
Apple may have just unveiled a new cellular version of its Apple Watch and a long-awaited 4K Apple TV. But the headliners at Tuesday’s event were its phones. And when it comes to the premium iPhone X, it’s all about the face.
The California consumer tech company offered a taste of what its upgraded processor, Augmented Reality and FaceID features can do, thank to its powerful new dual cameras and software.
The camera technology was designed to enhance quality, depth and lighting for selfies and portraits — with TrueDepth projection that uses Machine Learning and 30,000 invisible, infrared dots mapped onto the subject’s face, so it can identity the owner and distinguish if he or she is looking at the device.
While useful and exciting for the iPhone photographer, that level of precision is vital when it comes to facial-recognition authentication and payments.
Apple introduced FaceID logins as the evolution of fingerprint-friendly TouchID. Iphone X users merely look at their devices and swipe the screen to enter. FaceID is a necessity, since the device — with its edge-to-edge screen — foregoes the home button.
Retailers should note that, like TouchID, FaceID will work with Apple Pay and any apps or brick-and-mortar stores that support it. In terms of accuracy, the error rate for the facial recognition tech is 1 in 1 million, as opposed to 1 in 50,000 for Apple’s fingerprint biometric authentication.
That level of precision and facial mapping is critically important for security, but it also opens up numerous other uses.
In one demo, the company showed off its new Animoji — a set of animated faces that move according to the owner’s facial expressions. Using AR filters and Apple’s depth data, Snapchat created new Lenses — or overlays — that mimic more realistic and detailed masks, which move in lockstep with the subject’s face.
Apple executive Phil Schiller called the new device “the first iPhone really created for augmented reality, and the first smartphone as well.” That point is debatable, but it’s certainly the first smartphone that could popularize the technology on a large scale.
The depth map takes in the owner’s features, marking unique identifiers in his or her facial landscape, and that holds interesting promise for the beauty sector as well as eyeglass purveyors and others.
According to a Snapchat representative, the new technology enables more personalized Lenses that can look as if they’re painted right onto unique facial contours. Those Lenses can also reflect and react to ambient light in the room, and with the iPhone’s dual cameras, the 3-D elements can improve the tracking of movement and facial expressions.
“Apple’s ARKit [software development tools] and the new iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera with FaceID will enable a new family of applications that personalize and project retail experiences directly onto your face in real time,” he told WWD. The level of detail in FaceID’s computer modeling could buoy a new wave of cosmetic, eyewear or fashion applications “that allow consumers to try on products with accuracy that has never before been possible.”
The iPhone X will retail for $999. The high price, which is $300 above the iPhone 8, could somewhat limit the audience. But the real test of what the Apple customer can accept will arrive on Oct. 27, when pre-orders open. In addition to the premium model, the company is selling the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and older models up to the iPhone SE at reduced prices.
The smartphones join the new Apple TV and the latest Apple Watch in the current product lineup. Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook also noted Tuesday that the Apple Watch beat out brands such as Rolex and Fossil to become the top-selling watch in the world. An Apple representative clarified that this spot was determined based on revenue, but didn’t disclose numbers.