If you are one of those people who found it annoying that you have to take off your respirator mask just to unlock your iPhone using Face ID, you are not alone. Someone figured out a solution to this problem and it was not Apple. Face ID compatible respirator masks allow you to custom print your face on an N95 mask and unlock your iPhone safely, without taking it off.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak around the world, people have been using masks often to stay safe. While it may not seem like a big deal in the context of the situation, using masks has made it a bit difficult to seamlessly use and unlock devices with facial recognition technology, specifically most iPhone models and the latest iPad Pro. Users can still fall back on the good old PIN code to unlock their device, but it is slower than biometric authentication.
If security is not a major concern, users can simply disable any sort of authentication to use their devices faster. However, Apple Pay does not work without a passcode so you're out of luck if you use the payment service.
Yours truly had raised the concern more than a week ago that Apple should release software updates to allow easier access to iPhone and iPad, while wearing masks. It would sacrifice security but considering the global situation, such an option would be useful.
Apple should release iOS and iPadOS updates so that Face ID will work with masks on. I would be happy to sacrifice a bit of security for my health.
— Imran Hussain (@imhassan) February 9, 2020
As it turned out, I was not the only one facing this issue.
Well, someone figured out a solution to unlocking Face ID devices with masks on. https://t.co/ksbGVP2fcg
— Imran Hussain (@imhassan) February 17, 2020
Facial ID Respirator Masks aims to fix this problem by creating custom printed N95 surgical masks with the customer's face on it. The website explains more about how the printing works:
After uploading your face, we use computational mapping to convert your facial features into an image printed onto the surface of N95 surgical masks without distortion. Our printer uses inks made of natural dyes. It's non-toxic and doesn't affect breathability. You can use your mask for everyday life as a barrier for airborne particle droplets.
The masks will be available for $40 a piece, which is far more expensive than the actual cost of an N95 mask. In case you think that these printed masks are an opportunity to make money out of people's misery, the company says that it does not intend to sell the masks while there is a global shortage:
We will not be making these while there's still a global mask shortage.
There's a waiting list for these masks and no launch date yet. There is no confirmation either whether these masks will actually work with Apple's Face ID or not, as the person behind the service has not shared any proof. They might work with Android's basic facial recognition, which works with just the front-camera on a smartphone. It is not easy to bypass facial recognition on smartphones like iPhone and Pixel, which use infrared and flood illumination, along with the front-camera.