When will we actually be able to say ‘hello’ to Windows Hello?

windows hello
Credit: Microsoft

Windows 10 is here, and with it there are new methods of authentication designed to make it more secure and finally put an end to the use of passwords. Microsoft Passport and Windows Hello are very promising, but only if you have the right hardware…which most of you don’t have.

Most of the marketing and promotion for Windows Hello focuses on the facial recognition aspect—the ability to log in to your Windows 10 PC just by looking at the camera. Windows Hello also includes other biometric authentication techniques as well, though, like fingerprint scanning or iris scanning. The thing that makes Windows Hello useless for a vast majority of Windows 10 users, however, is that most people don’t have the right hardware to interact with the security feature.

Iris scanning isn’t very common outside of James Bond or Mission Impossible movies. Fingerprint scanning is probably the most widely-available of the three options. There have been PCs and laptops available equipped with fingerprint scanners for years. You can also get fingerprint scanning peripherals that attach via USB. It’s still far from mainstream, though—especially in the consumer arena.

Webcams, on the other hand, are virtually ubiquitous. Almost every laptop made has a front-facing webcam, and it’s common for businesses and consumers to have webcams connected to desktop PCs as well. Unfortunately those webcams aren’t good enough for the Windows Hello facial recognition capabilities. Windows Hello requires Intel RealSense 3D camera technology because it analyzes a deeper, more comprehensive facial profile rather than just a pretty picture of your face to provide better security.

There are a handful of systems available right now that come equipped with Intel RealSense 3D cameras. The HP Sprout, Asus N551JQ, Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15 and a few other devices will let you log into Windows 10 with a wink and a smile. The vast majority of businesses and consumers aren’t going to run out and buy new hardware for Windows 10, though, which means they can’t use the Windows Hello facial recognition.

I would expect webcam makers like Logitech to come out with webcam peripherals that support Intel RealSense 3D. I asked Logitech if such a device is on the horizon and was told that Logitech doesn't have a webcam equipped with RealSense 3D currently and that Logitech doesn’t speculate or comment on future roadmaps.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 marketing suggests that the children of today will grow up in a world without passwords—where they can log in just by looking at a device. Hopefully that vision will come true, but I think it will be awhile yet before the Intel RealSense 3D technology required for Windows Hello facial recognition to work becomes mainstream.

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