Vivo Unveils New 3D Sensing Technology to Take on Face ID

The Android world has been in desperate need of a proper Face ID competitor ever since Apple unveiled the iPhone X last year. So far, we’ve had yet to see one that could actually take the technology on, but it now seems we’re finally getting it. Just not from the company you’d expect.

At this year’s Shanghai MWC, Vivo took the time to unwrap its newest technology it’s calling “Time of Flight (TOF) 3D Sensing Technology.” Essentially, it’s a depth sensing array of sensors that enable new capabilities for phones such as facial, gesture, and motion recognition, 3D photography, and augmented reality effects. Clearly, it’s a way to compete with Face ID, and it looks like it could actually do that.

By combining AI recognition with TOF 3D Sensing Technology’s precise understanding of what it sees, users can even capture entire objects using 3D modelling. Users can therefore scan and recreate entire objects digitally. This technology can be used to scan lesson props for education, or even help scan critical parts of the body for medical purposes.

Inside the system, you’ll find different sensors that work together to track your face. According to Vivo, it works by pulsing light onto your face and determining how long that light takes to bounce back to the sensor, hence the “Time of Flight” naming scheme. The company’s system is so advanced, apparently, that it can read 300,000 sensor points for better accuracy at farther distances, then times that of the iPhone X. This means users will be able to have their phones as far away as three meters and still unlock their phones. For reference, the Face ID system needs to be 10 to 20 inches from your face to work.

Vivo’s TOF 3D Sensing Technology features industry-leading performance in depth of information captured with its 300,000 sensor points, which is 10 times the number of existing Structured Light Technology. This raises the bar by enabling 3D mapping at up to three meters from the phone while having a smaller baseline than Structured Light. TOF 3D Sensing Technology is also simpler and smaller in structure and allows for more flexibility when embedded in a smartphone. This will enable much broader application of this technology than was previously possible.

Vivo even says the technology isn’t just a proof of concept. Rather, it meets industry standards and can be used with current apps thanks to future updates. Essentially, we could be seeing this technology in Android smartphones relatively soon.

While there isn’t a guarantee the system will make it’s way to the market, it’s still cool to see companies like Vivo working to combat Apple’s Face ID. It’s been nearly a year since the tech debuted and not one Android OEM has unveiled a proper contender. Hopefully, Vivo’s solution will propel the reach of facial recognition systems to more consumers.