During the end of Summertime in 2013, while scanning through the news sites, one bumped upon an article about the vulnerability of the PIN we use in mobile phones to secure our personal data “PIN-Punching Robot Can Crack Your Phone’s Security Code In Less Than 24 Hours”. This made me explore more about the different approaches and mechanism employed across the smartphone and devices industry to loack /unlock the home screen. I came across the different workflows including the swipe to unlock, 3D gesture of hand infront of the camera of the device, biometric approaches (e.g. face recognition, fingerprinting ) along with smart ways like the “TimePIN” and Apple’s gesture based swipe etc.
In almost all the options, the device was stationary and the user’s feature was in action or in motion for example the swipe to unlock uses the finger movement, where as the sign wave by apple was more geared towards the gesture made by the user and similar.
So I kept on exploring about the concept and started to play around the concept of locking and unlocking from the other angle. A few days prior to this while watching a movie of the Tamil Superstar Rajinikanth’s cult style of wearing a glass I was reminded about one of the key insights from a local dipstick study on the local user segments for a popular Korean mobile brand which was about the fact that the emerging market mass has the urge to maintain the identity with the bragging power or the “massclusivity”
Massclusivity is the term coined around “Masstige” which is a popular trend now a days that is employed in mass-market products infused with prestige elements (think smartly packaged USD 20 shampoo sold in supermarkets), catering to emerging middle classes with an appetite for premium, but budgets that do not stretch to true luxury. This gives the user, in the mass, the exclusiveness of his sense of fulfilment of his identity among the mass, through some kind of fashion statement.
Looking at this aspect for smart phones, which are more personal to the user than any other device, I started toying with the ideas of how can we make the locking/unlocking a fashion statement.
The first step towards this was to give a fresh facelift to the user’s interaction point with device i.e. the moment he enters the data to lock or unlock the device. To move out of the confinement of traditional thinking around the interaction of locking or unlocking the device, I tried to see from the other angle, where the device instead of being stationary, is moving along with or in respect to the user’s focal point. This helped to elevate the user’s perception of being in a position to enter the data to something more fashionable, a style statement built with some movement motion and energy associated with. For this I sarted with the basic use of gyroscopic and magneto meter’s readings. The initial base concept was just changing of the values in device orientation and/or geographical /geological direction, while a pass code is entered.
The user interface provides an indicator for a number of taps/entries to be entered sequentially as a passcode.
The UI will have a button (B) that on accepting a tap/click from the user collects the values from system sensors related to “geological – direction”(D) and orientation data (O).
There must be an option in the settings while the user sets the passcode that allows users to instruct the system if it will record both the values G & O or just either one of them to form the final passcode to be matched for unlocking the device.
While this seemed practical enough, I wanted to take the next step, towards the style statement. So instead of moving a finger on the device, or making a hand gesture in fromt of the stationary device, I tried to flip the components of interaction so tha the device would be in motion and make the necessry style stament through the gesture recorded by the the orientation and directional data change through the sensors. The user can over the air can make some gesture while holding the device, that would help making a style sttament.
In this approach, basically, the user will move the device and while in pre-determined device orientation & geographical direction taps the button (B). A consecutive number of taps as required triggers the complete sequence to be matched with the previously stored passcode. If the match happens then the device is unlocked.
The user can provide a threshold of tolerance for accuracy error to be used while setting up the passcode. For example, the user can set the threshold for tolerance of accuracy error to 0 then the device will require exact value match.
If the user has set the threshold of accuracy error to a moderate level, then if the recorded value falls with-in the accepted range then the match happens.
Enhanced implementation (Approach 2) was another step forward that used a motion in the air to make a shape of a sign using the device as a statement that would be used to lock and unlocking the device. For example the user can make a shape of heart on the air while holding the device.
The great part of this was that this would act as a perfect USP for wearables like smart watch and fitness devices.
In all the discussed approches basically the saving and matching the saved signature or signature are the 2 steps.
Saving a path in 3D space as a passcode:
In this alternative implementation, the user moves the device in to draw a pattern over the air in physical world 3d space.
The system automatically records the consecutive device orientation values at different intervals during the movement to draw the path in virtual 3D space and uses that as a pattern.
When next time the user moves the device in physical 3d space to draw the same path holding the locked device, the device matches this new path with the earlier saved path and if it matches then unlocks the device.
1.The device may map only the resulting path and not the exact co-ordinate and if similarity between the saved and user provided paths is more than certain threshold (similar to how we match signatures) then it can allow to unlock the device.
2.The saving of path can also be recorded along with the geographical direction so that only the user facing the certain direction should attempt unlocking. This can be higher level of security.
In Smartwatch also the user can move the watch to record a path as a passcode and provide the same to unlock the watch without even the need to look at it –
In the small display area in devices like smartwatches, the invention becomes a boon as the user does not need to enter anything in the small UI
It’s always the fun and exciting to rediscover what we think we have already discovered. In case of this little idea, I feel that the excitement was the same and subject was worth re-discovering.