Apple's new face recognition technology fails to work during unveiling

Apple's new face recognition technology fails to work during unveiling
© Getty Images

After a decade of development, Apple finally unveiled its facial recognition software on Tuesday during the announcement of the new iPhone X — but, embarrassingly, the feature didn't work during its grand debut.

The new feature is meant to allow owners of the new phone to unlock their device simply by looking at its screen.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s vice president of software engineering, attempted to demonstrate the new feature while unveiling the iPhone X on Tuesday, but the phone didn't recognize his face, and instead went to the phone's passcode screen where the device can be unlocked with a password instead.

The company assured audiences Tuesday that the software works, saying it has tested the technology extensively.

The feature, which Apple has been developing since 2007, won’t come cheap. The new X model will retail for $999, making it the most expensive iPhone yet.

Privacy experts who spoke to Mashable also noted that the feature is likely less secure than fingerprint scanning, which iPhone users can use to unlock current models. Apple touts the feature as more secure than previous security locks on its phones.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said during the unveiling that Apple had worked extensively to make sure the feature "can't be easily spoofed by things like photographs."

Experts warn, though, that biometric types of unlocking features, including facial recognition, retinal scans and fingerprints scans all pose security risks. Additionally, judges can order consumers to unlock their phones using biometric unlock tools, something they can’t do with passwords.

Current facial recognition technologies also have demonstrated a difficulty in recognizing the faces of people of color. It’s unclear if the iPhone X will solve this, but experts in the space have said that the technology generally has difficulty processing very light- and very dark-skinned faces.

Apple has reportedly tested the feature on a range of skin tones and appearances.

Apple unveiled two other iPhones, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, that will be significantly cheaper at $699 and $799, respectively, but will have fewer new features and won't have the ability to unlock with facial recognition.