Samsung was first rumored in June to be working on a 3D facial recognition technology for its next-generation Galaxy flagship phone. It now turns out that the rumor has its formal basis in the form of a patent application approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in late Q2 2018.
Patently Apple reports that the USPTO has granted Samsung's patent for a biometric camera that can be integrated into a mobile device to scan a user's iris through a handset's front-facing camera. Additionally, the technology may optionally support "proximity sensing, night-vision camera, 3D time-of-flight sensor, eye position and gaze tracking camera, and structured light for 3D sensing."
Samsung intends for the biometric camera to flash a near-infrared light to the user during capture in order to address the challenge of ambient light. The biometric camera is also meant to have an extended depth of field imaging lens for taking images at short distances.
Like any other existing facial recognition systems, the idea behind Samsung's patented biometric camera is to verify a user who attempts to open a device equipped with such a system. Besides a mobile phone, the technology may also apply to a tablet, television, notebook or desktop, according to the patent.
It's not clear when Samsung plans to introduce the biometric system to a mobile device. However, it's possible that the biometric camera will debut in early 2019 along with the next-generation Galaxy S flagship.
The biometric camera will likely compete with Apple's Face ID which launched along with the iPhone X last year. However, it's worth noting that the South Korean tech giant filed the patent for a 3D sensing technology in 2014, so it's safe to assume that Samsung was already considering the concept even before Apple unveiled its own facial recognition system.