Update: Apple has today applied for a continuation patent for this idea. Continuation patent applications can be filed in one of two circumstances: where the inventors wants to add new claims, or where the patent office rejected some of the original claims but allowed others.

An Apple patent granted today shows how Apple Glasses could automatically unlock all your Apple devices, in much the same way that you can use an Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.

The patent acknowledges that having to unlock each of your devices individually can be slightly annoying when you are using several of them …

Many electronic devices restrict access to various features based on authentication of the identity of the user. When multiple devices are used concurrently, procedures for unlocking each device individually can delay user access and reduce the quality of the user experience. 

The patent doesn’t use the term Apple Glasses, of course, but the language makes it pretty clear, referring to “an authenticated device that is worn by a user as a head-mounted device.”

The usual dense patent language is used, but the key – as with the Apple Watch – is proximity. Devices are unlocked when you come into close range.

One aspect of the disclosure is a system for authenticated device assisted user authentication. The system includes an authenticated device that is worn by a user as a head-mounted device, wherein the user is currently authenticated to access a restricted-access function of the authenticated device. The system also includes a proximate device that has a locked state and an unlocked state, wherein a restricted-access function of the proximate device is inaccessible by the user in the locked state, and the restricted-access function of the proximate device is accessible by the user in the unlocked state. The authenticated device is operable to detect the proximate device, to determine an intent of the user to access the restricted-access function of the proximate device while the proximate device is in the locked state, and to emit authentication data. Based on the authentication data, the proximate device identifies the user as an authenticated user and enters the unlocked state from the locked state, such that the restricted-access function of the proximate device is accessible to the user.

The patent also discusses other options, in case a user doesn’t want devices to be unlocked without any user interaction. These include ‘spacial orientation’ (presumably turning to face the device); voice command; a body gesture; an eye gesture; or a ‘motion gesture’ – perhaps walking up to the device.

Apple applied for the patent in April 2019, and it was granted this morning. I last year asked for the ability to allow our Apple Watch to unlock our iPhone and iPad as well as our Mac. Apple does appear to be thinking along the same broad lines.

Little is yet known about Apple’s headset plans other than CEO Tim Cook stating that the company finds augmented reality more interesting than virtual reality, and thinks that Apple Glasses could eventually replace an iPhone. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that the glasses could be just a display device controlled by an iPhone, rather than a standalone device, and that it will be launched at some point this year. That is earlier than most previous reports predicted.

Would you want Apple Glasses to automatically unlock all your Apple devices, or have it subject to user confirmation? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Concept image: Martin Hajek/iDropNews

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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