June 5, 2023
Photos reveal that Google tested iris recognition using the Pixel 2 prototype

Photos reveal that Google tested iris recognition using the Pixel 2 prototype

As noted 9to5Google, images of a Pixel 2 prototype were shown in a tweet posted Friday by Internal archive. Yes, the 2017 Pixel 2 series will be fondly remembered by Pixel fans (including this writer who owned the Pixel 2 XL). What made this prototype special is that Google has equipped it with an iris recognition system. The 8MP selfie snapper has been replaced with an infrared filter front camera. An IR LED is placed on the other side.

Each person has different iris patterns, making it one of the most secure biometric tools available

An “Iris Demo” application allows users to check and register their irises by aligning their eyes with two circles. According to Internal Archive, this device “runs AOSP, a very pristine version of Android, this Pixel is pretty bland. Obviously the sole purpose of this device was to test iris recognition, without any other internal tools. All in all, this is a unique piece of prototype history!”

Google has so far refrained from offering iris recognition on the Pixel series although Samsung launched it with the Galaxy S8/S8+ from 2017. Samsung promoted iris recognition saying, “The patterns of your irises are unique to you and are virtually impossible to replicate, which means iris authentication is one of the most safe to keep your phone locked and content private.”
When the Galaxy S9 line came out in 2018, Samsung combined iris recognition and facial recognition and called it “Intelligent Scan”. Sammy removed Iris Recognition from its phones starting with the Galaxy S10 series so it could pursue a bezel-less design for its flagship smartphones. Samsung might have removed iris recognition just a little earlier because it would have been perfect for facial recognition with everyone wearing a mask. Of course, fingerprint scanners could also unlock devices during the pandemic.
Google borrowed from Apple’s TrueDepth camera to create a secure version of Face Unlock for the Pixel 4. The feature was missing from both the Pixel 5 and Pixel 6 lineups. Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, Google brought back a different version of Face Unlock although it can only be used to unlock the phone. Google does not consider it secure enough to verify user identity for mobile payments or when opening an app.

The first smartphones to use an iris scanner were released in 2015

To be considered safe, Google doesn’t want a facial recognition system to allow spoofing to unlock a device more than 7% of the time. Reportedly, spoofing will allow someone other than the phone owner to open a Pixel 7 device using Face Unlock more than 20% of the time. Impersonation occurs when someone pretends to be someone else, such as the owner of a targeted Pixel 7 series handset.

Interestingly, Google uses iris scanning (with badges) to secure its data centers.

One of our loyal readers also pointed out to me that some Microsoft Lumia models also feature iris scanning. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL both had this biometric capability in 2015. Of course, the lack of a well-stocked app store prevented the platform from gaining traction. If developers had supported Windows Phone, we could have had a three-way battle for smartphone supremacy between iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

But the aforementioned Lumia models weren’t the first handsets to include an iris scanner. That honor goes to the Fujitsu Arrows NX F-04G which had a feature called Iris Passport. This Android phone hit the market just a few months before the Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

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