People visiting the Ballard Locks, one of Seattle’s marvels of 20th Century engineering, were given a chance on Saturday to help Microsoft usher in one of the promises of the 21st Century: Logging in without remembering a password.
Microsoft representatives set up a research station to make 3D infrared scans of the faces of volunteers to help the company test new versions of Windows Hello, the biometric login system for Windows 10. The idea is to gather a wide variety of real-world scans to improve the accuracy of the facial recognition technology.
Volunteers signed a privacy agreement in advance, stating that the scans would be used purely for research purposes. I was one of the last volunteers of the day. The process took about 5 minutes, requiring participants to sit on the other side of a computer, facing a camera array taped to the back, and then move their face and adjust their body in a variety of prescribed motions to capture an accurate scan.
Microsoft introduced the Windows Hello technology with the rollout of Windows 10 last year. To become pervasive, Windows Hello will require more widespread integration by PC makers, although standalone cameras could also make biometric login more common in the meantime.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear more about Windows Hello at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in San Francisco next month.