One of the most touted features of Windows 10 and the new Surface flagship devices is Windows Hello, a biometric authentication system. One of the available security mechanisms is facial recognition, which uses specialized hardware to examine your face and unlock your device, app, or service, as though you had entered a password. The recently released Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices have been fitted with such hardware, and have just been updated with firmware that enable this feature on both devices.
It’s worth noting that Windows Hello also supports fingerprint scanning for devices not fitted with the necessary hardware for facial recognition. For example, the older generation Surface Pro 3, which does not have the face detection hardware, can be supplemented with a new specialized Type Cover that has a fingerprint scanning region specifically designed for Surface Pro 3 users not upgrading to the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book. It’s also worth noting that the while Microsoft is using its own hardware to enable this feature for the Surface Pro 4, Intel is hard at work leading this initiative with hardware like its RealSense camera. As such, it won’t be long before Windows 10 devices from other companies start to support Windows Hello as well.
Setting Windows Hello up is very simple. Simply head into the Settings app, click on the Accounts category, go into the Sign-in options subcategory, and you’ll see the Windows Hello option presumably if your device supports it. The system will ask you to stare directly at the device’s screen. On the Surface Pro 4, the device I used to test this feature, a little red light to the left of the front-facing camera’s camera will light up, indicating that the Windows Hello scanning mechanism is active. Stare at your screen for a few seconds, and you’re all set.
If you happen to wear glasses, you can add that look to your device’s sample repertoire. You will be prompted with an option to “Improve Recognition”, which will essentially have you repeat the same procedure now with the different look. As I wear my glasses while computing, I ended up taking off my glasses for the second scan. Didn’t seem to make a difference going in reverse, from bespectacled to naked, as the unlock feature worked flawlessly.
Scary flawlessly. When logging in with the new feature activated, it often recognized me before I even registered the computer screen within my eyesight. Unlike Windows 10’s loading authentication, which takes two seconds or so to parse your identity after you enter your password, Windows Hello’s facial recognition is literally instantaneous, held back only by the aforementioned loading.
There’s also an option to require you (or unintended users) to turn to both sides of your face for added facial recognition security. This works just as reliably, with very little head turning effort required. Just to fool around, I tried dancing my head around like you’d see of a singer in a pop music video, but it didn’t work reliably. Seems we’re not at age where users can authenticate themselves with a signature dance.
Not yet anyway.