Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Read My Lips: No Password Necessary

You may soon be able to replace your password with just a spoken word, according to scientists at Hong Kong Baptist University.

They have invented lip-reading software, apparently the first of its kind. Users will be able to speak into their smart devices, which will unlock as the software recognizes their lip movement. It will work even with a silent whisper.

Futurism, a technology news site, gushes that it "could spell the end of passwords as we know them."

Lip-Reading Security

The software works by matching password content with underlying behavioral characteristics of lip movement, says the university website. It claims that no one can mimic lip movement when uttering a password because the software learns to recognize the individual's distinctive movement.

"The same password spoken by two persons is different and a learning system can distinguish them," said Professor Cheung Yiu-ming, who led the team in developing the software.

The technology was granted a U.S. patent in 2015, and is expected to be used in authenticating financial transactions. It has potential application for mobile devices, automated tellers, and credit card machines. It also can be used with other security systems, such a face recognition and fingerprint identification.

You're Talking Too Fast

Or not so fast, as Rob Verger, writing for Popular Science, says. The magazine doesn't think lip-reading computers will save us from using passwords any time soon.

One problem is, saying your password out loud is not a good idea. In addition, lip-reading doesn't work well in the dark. Like facial recognition devices, computer lip-readers need to see to identify a user.

Anil Jain, a professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University, says computer lip-reading is just another form of biometrics. That includes fingerprints, facial identification, and iris scanning. These technologies improve security, but will not likely eliminate passwords for everyday use.

"People have been calling about the death of [the] password for many, many years, but it hasn't happened yet," Jain said.

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