Passwords could be replaced by lip-reading computers in the future

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Passwords are a constant pain — and most people aren’t even any good at picking them.

But one professor has a novel plan for how to kill them off for good — by replacing them with lip-reading software.

Instead of memorising and typing a complex word, just say or mouth it in front of the selfie camera that now comes as standard on just about every phone and laptop. If it recognises your password and your lips — you’re in!

The tech is the invention of scientists at the Hong Kong Baptist University led by Professor Cheung Yiu-ming, and is detailed on the educational establishment’s site.

The logic behind it is that your lips are unique — no one else has ones quite like yours, or can mimic how they move when saying a certain password or phrase. This makes it an ideal form of biometric authentication — and has a major advantage over fingerprints since they can’t really be stolen.

Lip reading password Professor Cheung Yiu-mingHong Kong Baptist UniversityProfessor Cheung Yiu-ming demonstrating the lip-reading technology.

If someone has a copy of your fingerprint and is able to replicate it in a way that fools a fingerprint scanner, there’s not much you can do about it, short of a hand transplant. But if someone manages to sneak a video of your lips mouthing your password, then it’s as simple as changing the password to a new one.

“The dynamic characteristics of lip motions are resistant to mimicry, so a lip password can be used singly for speaker verification, as it is able to detect and reject a wrong password uttered by the user or the correct password spoken by an imposter,” the university’s announcement says.

Another bonus: You can combine it with existing voice-recognition technology for an additional layer of security, though it could equally be used without sound or by speech-impaired people.

While the tech developed by the Hong Kong Baptist University team isn’t available in any commercial technology today, potential applications are obvious — from unlocking your smartphone, to verifying your identity on your work computer. The researchers have a patent on it, and suggest it could also be used at ATMs instead of a PIN code or to authenticate purchases and financial transactions.

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