While 3D facial recognition is so far limited to flagships, MediaTek is set to bring the same experience to affordable devices. The chip maker has developed its technology dubbed Active Stereo that works with the Helio P60 and Helio P22 SoC. The technology is essentially aiming to reduce the production cost of building Structured-Light 3D sensors that offer solutions similar to Apple's Face ID that debuted on the iPhone X last year. Android smartphones such as Xiaomi and Oppo brought enhanced facial recognition features to their flagship models in the recent past. However, affordable smartphones at the present stage majorly come with a software-based face unlock feature that uses the traditional front camera to detect the facial features.
As reported by Chinese technology site Mashdigi, MediaTek has integrated the Stereo Matching Depth Engine into the Helio P60 and Helio P22 SoCs. It is initially used to capture depth information for the Bokeh and beauty modes. However, when combined with the required hardware, the technology has the potential to enable a secure facial recognition functionality that could even be used for authenticating users during a mobile payment process.
MediaTek has tied up with Himax for building the supported IR (infrared) projector and lenses to enable 3D facial recognition on future devices powered by Helio P60 and Helio P22 SoCs. Also, the software part is said to be developed by Vision Technology Face++.
A simple face unlock feature that is available on a large number of Android devices nowadays uses the standard front-facing camera sensor and a software application to enable facial recognition. But since it doesn't record facial features in detail, the present devices with a face unlock feature aren't as secure as the Face ID technology offered by Apple, which does have some loopholes as well. Xiaomi attempted to mimic Apple's technology and integrated structured-light 3D sensors on the Mi 8 Explorer. Similarly, Oppo earlier this year brought the Find X with an array of sensors at the front to offer 3D facial recognition out-of-the-box. Nonetheless, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer and Oppo Find X both come as the premium Android models.
In June, Vivo announced its proprietary 3D sensing technology called TOF 3D Sensing Technology that is claimed to capture as many as 300,000 sensor points - 10 times the number of sensor points captured on the iPhone X. However, devices using the TOF 3D Sensing Technology are yet to reach the market. The initial model itself, as detailed by Vivo, was said to cost about the same as the TrueDepth Camera system that powers Face ID on the iPhone X.
With MediaTek's plans towards enabling 3D facial recognition on devices featuring the Helio P60 and Helio 22 SoCs, we can safely presume that some future mid-range smartphones will offer an experience similar to Face ID. But it is worth noting here that the Chinese company is set to reveal its plans for the commercial devices using its latest development. It is also unclear that how many sensor points will be captured through the low-cost technology.