In a bid to increase security, Google has filed a patent which allows users to “pull a face” instead of using a standard password.

Photo recognition software has been trialled previously but was found to be relatively easy to hack using photo-editing software.

Google’s idea, in theory, should combat the ability to trick the software using a photo as it will track micro-expressions made when the owner of the device pulls a specific face.

According to an article from the BBC,
“The document – which was filed in June 2012 but has only just been published – suggests the software could track a “facial landmark” to confirm a user not only looks like the device’s owner but also carries out the right action.

Woman with funny face recognition

Image courtesy of

It says examples of the requests that might be made include:

  • a frown
  • a tongue protrusion
  • an open-mouth smile
  • a forehead wrinkle
  • an eyebrow movement

It says the check would work by comparing two images taken from a captured video stream of the user’s face to see if the difference between them showed the gesture had been made.”

Google’s filing also states that the software could use a number of different checks to confirm that the user is in fact the owner of the device. This comes after criticism of Google’s “liveness check” which required users to blink at their device to help stop people tricking the software with a photograph.

While theoretically, the “liveness check” could have been successful, a group of security researchers from the University of British Columbia found that the system could still be fooled. By taking a photograph of the device’s owner, and then modifying it with photo editing software to look like the owner is blinking, researchers found that flicking between the original and doctored photographs tricked the device into thinking that it was indeed the owner blinking.

With this in mind, the new “facial password” idea does sound relatively promising; detecting micro-expressions or “facial landmarks” that form part of a specific movement, such as sticking out your tongue, are unique to the individual and, without knowing exactly what the device will be checking for, could be extremely difficult to replicate.

We were going to try and pull our best faces for this article, but we couldn’t beat the one shown above, courtesy of!

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