New touchscreen tech will read your fingerprints

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Christian Holz and Patrick Baudisch, a pair of German researchers, have come up with a way to integrate fingerprint recognition in touch screens.

The technology, called Fiberio, is a significant step forward, since existing fingerprint readers are special devices that can’t be integrated into touch screens without obscuring a part of the display. Their innovation allows this to be eliminated, turning the touch panel into the fingerprint reader, while the screen remains transparent in its entirety.

As Holz details on his site, Fiberio can be used to verify a user during each touch interaction. Imagine logging into internet banking from your mobile device, and having your fingerprint verified with each PIN digit you enter – the ultimate security device, even if somebody does have your PIN code.

The key part of Fiberio is the fibre optic plate that acts as its touch panel. The explanation Holz gives is that the plate can diffuse light, thus allowing for it to be used as a projection surface – much like the rear-projection TVs of old. But the plate also reflects light specularly, which allows for enough contrast to enable fingerprints to be read. The resolution of the system is great, too. In one demonstration, Holz shows a cube with a 3x3mm marking being detected by Fiberio.

There is one major drawback, though: in its current form, Fiberio relies on the rear-projection model. The device that Holz and Baudisch have built is a touch-enabled table, large enough to accommodate a projector, and effectively dashing our dreams of seeing this in the next iPad.

Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.