Scientists at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick have developed a new technology that uses an extremely simple mechanism to turn any solid surface into an authentication surface. They call it VibWrite, and its inventors claim it’s a very inexpensive and effective alternative to fingerprint or retina authentication mechanisms that cost 10 times as much.
Their method uses a vibration motor and a receiver that work in tandem to detect the way different people touch a surface. The motor sends vibrations constantly through the material–and when it’s touched, fingers affect the vibration pattern in unique ways. The receiver detects those vibration changes, identifying the person using her specific physiological characteristics and the way the fingers naturally behave. According to professor Yingying Chen–who led the VibWrite project–your fingers’ bone structure and how you apply pressure on surfaces is different from everyone’s else. This vibration sensor, she says, can detect these subtle physiological and behavioral differences.
In addition to using these physiological and behavioral identification mechanisms, the system also uses a passcode, which could be a pin, a lock pattern, or a gesture. Having this three-pronged approach, the team claims, makes it very resilient against hacking attacks.
They also say that “VibWrite probably could be commercialized in a couple of years”–after they put it through its paces under different environmental conditions. Apparently, it will be very easy to install on everything from touchscreens in phones and computers to physical doors. If it works as well as they say, perhaps in a few years Apple will ditch its face ID system and give everyone the finger–er, the power to unlock their phones with their fingers–again.