Yahoo researchers have created a new technology called Bodyprint which is claimed to make smartphone touchscreens act like biometric sensors. The attempt by researchers from Yahoo Labs is to give biometric authentication a wider reach, as till now the feature has only been seen with high-end Android and Apple iPhone models that feature expensive hardware for the purpose.
The Bodyprint technology is said to convert the smartphone screens into a "low-resolution but large image sensor" which can identify users' ears, fists, and palms when pressed against the screen, says Christian Holz, Researcher in Human-Computer Interaction at Yahoo Labs on his website.
An example of the application of Bodyprint technology is ensuring only a handset's owner can pick up calls. For instance, during an incoming call, the user can pick up a handset and place it on their ear, and Bodyprint will scan the user's ear and automatically answer the call if the scan matches. The handset will keep ringing if someone else tries to answer the call.
Holz added that Bodyprint, when used with 12 different participants during internal testing classified body parts with 99.98 percent accuracy and identified users with 99.5 percent accuracy. "Scanning users' ears for identification, Bodyprint achieves 99.8% authentication precision with a false-rejection rate of 1 out of 13, thereby bringing reliable biometric user authentication to a vast number of commodity devices," he stated.
It is not yet certain how Yahoo will incorporate or market the feature. Bodyprint is expected to arrive in the form of an app supporting all compatible touchscreen smartphones.
The firm however is not only innovating new tech but also planning to extend in reach in other areas as well. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer during the company's earnings call last week hinted that the firm might compete with voice-based virtual assistants such as Microsoft's Cortana, Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now in the future with its own search-based mobile offering. The firm is reportedly also set to unveil a messaging app later this quarter, a video-focused product that will take on popular rivals like Skype and Snapchat.