While Google and Amazon have led the race to AI, Apple has lagged behind. That changed with today’s iPhone X release.
The latest iPhone struts its AI strength with three new features: Face ID, for facial recognition; Animoji, an emoji animator; and a new camera exposure mode called portrait lighting.
Face ID is the most impressive addition. Previously, iPhone users could wake up their devices with a password, pattern swipe or Touch ID — a fingerprint reader incorporated into the home button. But Touch ID and the home button are both history. Now, Face ID will wake up a phone by recognizing owners’ faces. Apple says the feature will work regardless of angle of view or lighting levels.
Face ID is powered by a system called TrueDepth, which includes a dot projector, infrared camera and flood illuminator. The setup is similar to Sony Kinect, a RGB-D camera used for 3D scanning, which projects a network of dots onto its subject, like a 3D mesh.
Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller says Face ID is more secure than Touch ID. Apple estimates the chances that someone could trick Face ID at one in a million, compared to one in 50,000 for Touch ID.
But will your iPhone X still recognize you if you grow a beard, put on glasses, or change your hair style or colour? Apple says yes, and to that end is employing machine learning algorithms and neural networks to teach Face ID who you really are.
Face ID’s myriad computations are run by the new A11 Bionic chip, which can perform 600 billion operations per second and includes an AI-powered neural engine built for a specific set of machine learning algorithms. Apple says it is “the most powerful and smartest chip ever in a smartphone.”
Face ID’s facial detection system is also linked to Animoji, a feature that mirrors users’ facial expressions onto various dynamic emojis which can be sent as voice messages. At the product release presser, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi used Animoji to incorporate his facial expression onto a poop emoji.
Exploiting iPhone X’s new AI power, Apple also introduced a camera preset called portrait lighting, wherein the TrueDepth camera system can separate a subject’s face from its background and “light” it in a variety of flattering or dramatic ways.
The iPhone X uses AI to enhance common user actions such as waking up the phone, emoji messaging, and taking photos. In the future, additional resource-heavy AI-powered features such as speech recognition and translation are expected to leave the cloud and be incorporated directly into smartphone hardware. The iPhone X represents an exciting step in this direction.
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen