Google paid people to scan their faces for Pixel 4 ‘field research’

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The goal is to make the Pixel 4’s face unlock as inclusive as possible.

What you need to know

  • Google has confirmed that it paid people to scan their faces.
  • A report about this surfaced earlier this month.
  • Face unlock is being used as part of the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense features.

Google threw the tech blogging world for another loop on July 29 when it shared a teaser video for the Pixel 4 to confirm two of its most-widely rumored features — air gestures and face unlock.

These features are part of something Google’s calling "Motion Sense", and it’s powered by the company’s Soli chip. Face unlock has been present in tons of Android phones for years now, but Google’s working to make its version the fastest and safest we’ve ever seen.

To make sure the Pixel 4’s face unlock works as good as it can, however, Google’s now confirmed that it had to conduct "field research" by going out on the streets and paying people with $5 gift cards to scan their faces. A report about this first surfaced earlier this month, but a Google spokesperson has now confirmed it.

Per an email sent to the The Verge:

Our goal is to build the feature with robust security and performance. We’re also building it with inclusiveness in mind, so as many people as possible can benefit.

As for the security/privacy of how the field research works, Google says:

Although face samples inherently can’t be anonymous, each participant is assigned an abstract identity number. We separately keep each participant’s email address, in order to remove data upon request.

After 18 months have passed, Google will get rid of the face data it collected from these tests. Furthermore, while it still has the face scans, it’s said that they’re "encrypted and access restricted" with no connections to people’s Google account if they have one.

It seems like Motion Sense will be one of the main selling points for the Pixel 4, so it’s not surprising that Google wants to take its development seriously. How all of that research and scanning will pay off, however, remains to be seen.

Google Pixel 4: News, Leaks, Release Date, Specs, and Rumors!

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July 29, 2019 at 08:14AM