Android’s Face ID Moment Arrives Thanks to Harvard Startup

Android users have long eyed iPhone owners’ slick Face ID unlock feature with envy. But a Harvard startup may finally bring equally secure facial recognition to Android devices everywhere.

Apple’s Face ID allows iPhone users to unlock their devices, authorize payments and log into apps with a quick face scan. It’s proven remarkably secure over several years. On Android, janky face unlock tools remain easily fooled, so users stick with fingerprint sensors.

But a Harvard spinout called Metalenz aims to change that dynamic. Metalenz develops highly secure facial authentication technology designed specifically for mass adoption.

And its new system, dubbed Polar ID, just got a major boost. Metalenz recently partnered with device giant Samsung, which will supply special 3D camera sensors to power Polar ID. With Samsung’s help, Polar ID could reach millions of Android users worldwide by 2024.

Polar ID captures a unique signature of users’ facial features to authenticate access. This prevents basic image spoofing used to fool standard Android face unlocks. And Samsung’s state-of-the-art 3D sensors enable accurate face maps without elaborate iPhone-style dot projectors.

Together, Metalenz and Samsung can make facial recognition both affordable and secure enough for everyday transactions. No longer will Android owners need tochoose between shoddy face tech and touch sensors.

The partners aim to ship Polar ID on Android devices next year. If they pull it off, the facial recognition playing field will finally level between Android and iOS. Unlocking your phone, paying for lunch, accessing an account could all happen seamlessly without fingerprints getting in the way.

And Metalenz doesn’t want to stop at authentication. It envisions Polar ID as a keystone technology for next-generation mixed reality too. Just as Face ID was fundamental to realizing Apple’s original vision for augmented reality on iPhone, Polar ID could spur creative new directions in Android-powered immersive tech down the road.