Unlock a PC with the power of your heart
It may sound like a rejected plot from a Care Bears remake, but researchers from the University at Buffalo have discovered a way to unlock computers using the power of your heart.
Specifically, this form of authentication works by using a radar to measure the size and shape of your heart. If you’re in the right place, the device should be able to recognise that it’s you sitting in front of the PC, and sign you in without any pesky passwords. It takes about eight seconds to identify your heart the first time, and after that it continuously recognises you, meaning you can wander off without logging out and not have to worry about someone taking your seat. “No two people with identical hearts have ever been found,” explained study author Wenyao Xu, adding that the only time heart shapes change is with serious disease.
Because it uses low-level Doppler radar to monitor heart dimensions, it also works at range – up to 98ft away to be exact. Okay, that’s not hugely useful for personal computing unless you have a very big monitor, but the researchers envisage it could be used for airport security, speeding up the process of getting travellers through passport control in record time.
If the idea of being continually scanned sounds dangerous, it’s worth noting that the researchers claim the radar strength is “much less” than Wi-Fi, which is generally regarded as pretty safe. “We are living in a Wi-Fi surrounding environment every day, and the new system is as safe as those Wi-Fi devices,” said Wenyao Xu, the study’s lead author. “The reader is about five milliwatts, even less than 1% of the radiation from our smartphones.”
Right now, it’s not practical for use everywhere because of its size, but the researchers are hopeful that they’ll be able to shrink it down so that it comfortably fits within a keyboard, and may even be able to fit it inside smartphones. The downside to this, of course, is that anyone can unlock your phone as long as you’re standing nearby – which means that border control wouldn’t need to ask you for your password to gain access to all of your accounts. Perhaps the best use case is to imagine this as a form of two-factor authentication: you’d still need a password, but a quick scan of the heart could confirm whether it’s really you or a hacker who’s nabbed your login.