Apple is already big on biometric data for letting users unlock their phones, but a new patent shows the Cupertino company is looking ahead to the day when it can scan a user’s face, neck, chest, arms, legs—AKA your full silhouette—to let you access a device, or else allow your phone to tell you if you should be concerned about your health.
This new Apple patent published Thursday was first filed back in July of last year. As first noticed by AppleInsider, the “Electronic Devices with Body Composition Analysis Circuitry” tech is meant to analyze body composition based on depth maps captured by external sensors, including regular photos as well as infrared images. Apple already employs these kinds of biometric readings using infrared images for the face, but the idea with this patent is to use that same technology for the rest of the body. It would identify the depth of users’ neck, waist, arms, and more.
Of course, there’s a few reasons not to get excited for every single Apple patent that comes out, but this latest is interesting because much of the technology it would use is already there. Last month, reports showed the Cupertino tech giant was getting close to finding a noninvasive glucose test for diabetics through an Apple Watch. If the company wants to dig even deeper into the lucrative world of health and fitness tech, then getting an idea of a users’ full body composition would be a good start.
The patent reads that users’ “demographic information” can come from a “dedicated body composition analysis questionnaire” or “as part of some other health-related application.” There have been rumblings about a fitness-dedicated Apple Watch, and the company already sells a Fitness+ subscription for video and audio workouts that incorporates metrics from an Apple Watch.
Biometrics are nothing new to the tech world, but what Apple’s proposing in this patent would give “body data” a whole new meaning. While Apple would be able to get the full picture of a user’s body, the patent describes how the model can be trained on “a specific body part,” meaning it can detect how much muscle you’ve gained in a bicep, or how much flab’s been forming at your waistline.
“Because body fat tends to be stored in certain fat pockets such as regions in the cheeks and neck, those regions may be more indicative of body composition than other regions,” the patent reads.
Though the patent remains vague and purposefully broad, Apple could be looking to develop some kind of machine learning AI system to go along with this tech. The patent reads “a model can be trained to predict fat percentage in the face and the neck. Data collected during the user study may serve as training data for training the model.”
What’s more, this personal information data could be used to deliver “targeted content,” which may hint at Apple using biometric data for the purpose of targeted advertising. This would be a big red flag for a company that’s been sued for allegedly tracking user’s activities even when it promised not to. Otherwise this health and fitness data could be used for “insights into a user’s general wellness, or may be used as positive feedback to individuals using technology to pursue wellness goals.”
It’s unclear what device could wield this scanning tech, though an iPhone would likely be capable of taking stock of a user’s full silhouette, but this tech could even be incorporated into a smart TV or laptop. The possibilities are about as interesting as they are concerning.