The future has flying cars, replicators, and computers that recognize your face and let you log in just by looking at them. While we may have to wait a bit longer for the cars and the replicators, we can have face recognition right now, and it’s surprisingly affordable. I took a look at BioTrust ($13), and it took a look right back at me.
The first thing I noticed about BioTrust was the sheer heft of its installer. At over 300MB, it cannot be described as lightweight. Once installed, though, it did not seem to slow down my computer or negatively impact performance in any other way.
Since BioTrust replaces Windows’ own log-in dialog, you will have to reboot your computer immediately after installing. The next thing you’ll do is enroll your face into the system. The Enrollment Wizard uses a concept called “scenes,” where each scene is composed of multiple images of your face from different angles. BioTrust has you look at different spots on the screen, and takes snapshots of your face as you turn your head. It face recognition algorithm is quite clever: I tried to strike a Dr. Evil pose with my hand on my chin and a raised eyebrow, but BioTrust would have none of my shenanigans and simply rejected the images.
Once you’re enrolled, you can log on to Windows by simply looking at your screen. But BioTrust is sensitive to lighting: if you originally enrolled at night-time when your office was relatively dark, you may have trouble logging in during the day. Don’t worry: If you fail to log-in using your face, you can simply type your Windows password. Once you successfully log in using your password, BioTrust offers to save your failed login attempt as a new “scene”-meaning, it uses your failed attempt to learn more about you, and so doesn’t fail when you next try to log in under the same lighting conditions.
Another nice touch is that BioTrust “turns on the light” when it’s dark. By default, the login screen background is black. But when there is insufficient light to recognize your face, the background automatically turns white, effectively transforming your monitor into a lamp. It was able to recognize my face in a totally dark room, using nothing but the white background for lighting.
BioTrust also has a built-in password manager, which recognizes when you log in to a Website and offers to let you log in biometrically in the future. At the time of this writing, the password manager is only available for Internet Explorer, but 3M Cogent tells PCWorld that they’re next planning to implement support for Firefox, and then for Chrome. Even under IE, the password manager doesn’t always work: The vendor claims to have tested it with a set of 700 common Websites, but when I tried it with Fiverr.com, it simply did not offer to save my password. I then tried to log in to Twitter, which BioTrust did detect and offer to save for future use.
When you navigate to a Website for which you saved your credentials in BioTrust, a small button appears at the corner of the IE window. Once you click it, BioTrust tries to recognize your face. When it succeeds, you are instantly logged on. When I first tried it, it was a bit sluggish, but on my second attempt it felt much more responsive.
I like my password managers lean and open-source, so I’ll stick to KeePass. But when it comes to logging onto Windows every morning, BioTrust is a fantastic tool at a great price.
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