The lack of Face ID on the Mac is something that continues to surprise, especially after Apple introduced the notch on the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. As a biometric security feature, it's been huge on the iPhone and iPad Pro. And it could finally be on the way to the Mac.
That's if a new patent is any indication, anyway. This isn't the first time Apple has been said to have designs on bringing Face ID to the Mac of course, but this new patent appears to deal with one problem that previously hampered Apple's efforts — it might now have a way to put Face ID into the super-thin displays of its portable Macs.
Putting Face ID technology like that of the iPhone 14 into a MacBook display isn't possible right now, but if this patent is any indication, who knows what the future will bring?
The new patent, titled "Light Recognition Module for Determining a User of a Computing Device" and spotted by AppleInsider, takes pains to point out that Macs hold all kinds of sensitive data that needs to be kept private. It goes on to note that "to prevent unauthorized users from accessing this sensitive data, these computing devices may incorporate systems and mechanisms for authenticating users."
But while Face ID already does that, a new, thinner alternative would be needed for something like a portable Mac. The patent might have the answer, with Apple saying that its technology could use "a light pattern recognition module that may be incorporated within a computing device (e.g., a laptop computer, a notebook, a desktop computer, etc.)." The theory goes that a light emitter could project a predetermined pattern of light and then a sensor could detect "a pattern of light caused by reflection of the predetermined pattern of light from an object (e.g., a user)."
The patent shows that Apple would put such technology into a notch like the ones already housing FaceTime cameras today. There also appears to be a suggestion that future iMacs could have their own notches as well.
However, it's always important to temper expectations when it comes to Apple patents. They don't always relate to future products in obvious ways, although that doesn't seem likely to be the case here. Time will tell of course, but it seems clear that Apple does intend to bring Face ID to Macs at some point in the future.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.