Sit down in front of your computer and Windows 10 might know who you are before your fingers even touch the keyboard.
Some of the changes made to Windows 10 are designed to backtrack on the more radical aspects of Windows 8, but there are plenty of new features in there as well.
“Windows Hello” is of particular interest for business users, as it offers alternatives to typing in your password when you log into your computer.
Biometric authentication is nothing new, fingerprint readers and iris scanners have been around for years.
What Windows Hello offers is an easy way to tie a range of biometrics into the Windows 10 login screen.
Microsoft is also making it easier to integrate biometrics into the enterprise grade Passport authentication system – letting users log into applications, websites and networks.
Windows Hello also supports facial recognition – so all you need to do is sit down in front of the computer and it will log you in, without pressing your eye or your finger to a biometric scanner.
Facial recognition is already used by some smartphones and would seem open to abuse by anyone with your mugshot, but Windows 10 takes extra precautions to ensure that you’re really you.
Windows Hello’s facial recognition features don’t work with an ordinary webcam.
To take advantage of facial recognition login you need a new Intel RealSense 3D webcam, which you’ll find already built into a handful of notebooks.
RealSense 3D cameras are actually two cameras side-by-side, offering highly accurate depth perception rather than a flat view of the world.
They also include infrared sensors to improve their performance in difficult lighting conditions.
Rather than just looking at your facial features, RealSense 3D cameras also look at the contours, meaning that simply holding up someone’s photograph isn’t enough to bluff your way into someone else’s computer.
RealSense 3D cameras are part of Intel’s Perceptual Computing project, which is working towards the goal of “natural user interaction”.
Rather than limiting you to the traditional keyboard and mouse, RealSense also supports voice, facial and gesture recognition.
More than simply waving your arms at the computer, RealSense aims to read facial expressions to better interpret your intentions.
The camera’s depth perception also allows for a range of other features. You can reach out your hands and manipulate 3D objects on a screen as if they were floating in front of you.
Also, you can change your background during video conferences without relying on green screen effects.
This sounds like a bit of a novelty, but it could actually have practical business applications if you’re trying to look professional during a conference call while sitting in a cafe or working at your kitchen table.
Windows Hello and RealSense are set to usher in a new age of biometrics support for Windows users, letting you look beyond keyboards and touchscreens for new ways to interact with your computer at work.