Glossary

3D facial recognition

3D facial recognition© 2022 Shutterstock

What is 3D facial recognition?

Facial recognition is the act of verifying the identity of someone by matching their face to a database of faces. This technology can be used to identify people in photos, videos, or even in real-time on security cameras.

Facial recognition has traditionally worked by matching the image of a user’s face to a database of 2D photos. The downside of this form of technology is that it is relatively easy to trick, for example, by using a printed image of a person’s face. This is the form of facial recognition that is common on Android phones.

3D facial recognition, on the other hand, is the act of verifying the identity of someone by matching their face to a 3D map of a person’s facial features. The average consumer will be most familiar with this technology through the iPhone. The iPhone X, released in 2017, was the first mainstream device to feature 3D facial recognition technology. Alongside the front-facing camera, there is an infrared dot projector which projects 30,000 invisible dots onto the user’s face, and an infrared camera to read this data. 

This combination creates a facial recognition system that is far more secure than traditional 2D-based facial recognition systems. Apple’s FaceID technology also adapts over time so that things like growing facial hair do not interfere with unlocking a device. 

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