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Login With Your Noggin – Identifying People Using Skull’s Acoustics

Biometric systems, which identify people by their physiological features, can use everything from ear shape to walking gait to tell who you are. Now we can add our skull’s ability to conduct sound to the list. SkullConduct picks up on the unique way a sound wave changes as it passes through the bone in an individual’s skull. A team of researchers at the University of Stuttgart, the University of Saarland and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany used a bone conduction speaker and microphone to propagate and receive an identical sound wave through the skulls of 10 individuals.

The team was able to use the tiny differences in the sound waves after they passed through the participants’ skulls to identify individuals with 97 per cent accuracy. The system could be built into smart glasses like Google Glass or VR headsets to log people into an account as soon as they don the device.

There are a couple of hurdles to overcome first, however. The team tested their prototype without background noise and they expect its accuracy not to be as good in real scenarios. Yet so-called soft biometrics, which can identify you without you needing to do anything, are becoming more common. Used in combination they have the potential to identify people with very high accuracy.

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The current system also uses white noise as the sample sound wave, which might be irritating to users. But this could be replaced with a short music clip or jingle, say the researchers. The team will present the work at the Conference for Human-computer Interaction in San Jose, California, in May.