Google has already signified that it’s not going to be your traditional phone launch for the Pixel 4. They’ve continued the trend this morning speaking about a new, and likely more secure, face unlock feature as well as hands-free gesture controls.
In a blog post this morning, Pixel product manager Brandon Barbello spoke about the new Face Unlock feature and ‘Motion Sense’ technology coming to Android phones, starting with the Pixel 4.
Motion Sense, based on Project Soli — a neat bit of tech born out of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group — uses radar from a special chip on the front of the phone to track hand movements above your phone. Motion Sense will let you ‘skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand’ — but there will be more Motion Sense gestures coming along says Google.
The Motion Sense chip was shown off alongside a slew of new sensors which will be utilised for another highly anticipated new feature: Face Unlock.
Google’s ‘new’ Face Unlock feature will utilise dual Infra-Red Cameras, Dot Projectors and your front camera to securely unlock your phone. The tech will also be used ‘for secure payments and app authentication’ says Google, with all face data securely stored in the Pixel’s Titan M security chip.
Not only will it be secure, the new Face Unlock can be used in any orientation – even upside down – and should be fast enough to recognise you and unlock the phone in one smooth motion as you bring the phone up to read.
Google has previously dabbled in Face Unlock for Android, however it’s been an underwhelming, and insecure option for users. Testing found a photograph was usually enough to trick the old version into unlocking the phone. Not so the new Face Unlock.
The new Face Unlock feature has undergone extensive testing, with Google employees reportedly stopping people in the streets to test it. ZDNet reported last week that pedestrians in the US were being offered a $5 gift card to test it out, with Google following up with The Verge to advise the testing was to ‘improve its algorithms and thereby improve the Pixel 4’s accuracy’, likely to offset any bias from different gender, or various ethnicities.
Introducing a secure, as well as fast Face Unlock feature goes some way to explaining the absence of the beloved rear fingerprint sensor from the Pixel 4 render last month.
Notable for its absence on the front panel though is a second front-facing camera. For the launch of the Pixel 3, Google used the inclusion of dual front-facing cameras to push the idea of Group Selfies, and it’s been a pretty good feature. Google may include a wide-angle lens on the sensor to offer options, and use their image processing prowess to smooth out any artefacts caused by a fish-eye lens to achieve the same effect as a dual-lens, but well have to wait for launch for all those juicy details.
Google has traditionally announced their new hardware in October, and if were getting this many juicy details this far out, they may have something even juicer to announce then.