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Did Apple’s WWDC announcement hint that Face ID could come to the Mac?

Apple has just announced that its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will be held on June 22. And just like when Apple told the world its gala show would be online-only, it seems there’s a huge hint in the promotional artwork.

So, what are we looking at here? Apple’s WWDC poster depicts three Memoji characters staring out from behind their Macs. Some people have already joked that this could mean Tim Cook and friends will present the entire event as 3D caricatures of themselves, in what would surely be one of the most agonizing event gags in recent years. But I think this image actually points toward something far more exciting (not to mention more tasteful).

Apple's WWDC 2020 promotional imagery

Could it be that Apple is finally ready to bring Face ID to the Mac? I’ve been saying for months how it would be fantastic to be able to log in to your Mac simply by sitting down at your desk. Could it actually be happening for real now? We already know Apple has patented a Mac Face ID system. We also already know that WWDC is going to be Mac-focused — both this most recent announcement image and the one Apple previously used featured the Mac front and center. But let’s dissect the Memoji in a little more detail.

Memoji (and their animated cousins Animoji) first made their debut on the iPhone X. Apple’s software uses the sophisticated front-facing camera array of the iPhone X (and later) to capture a full depth map of your face. It then uses this information to animate the captured image in real time. Before the multi-sensor system that Face ID makes use of, the iPhone’s front-facing camera simply was not good enough to do this kind of complex processing. Right now, the Mac has a similarly lackluster camera.

The prominent combination of the Mac and Memoji in Apple’s promotional material feels more than coincidental — and if you are a seasoned Apple watcher, you know that nothing in Apple’s promotional images is ever coincidental. I’m hoping this means that we finally get Face ID on the Mac.

Still, I’m not expecting Apple will unveil any hardware with this kind of capability. It’s been literally one day since Apple updated the MacBook Pro 13, sans Face ID. What is more likely is that the company will announce its plans to bring Face ID to the Mac, perhaps alongside a developer kit, allowing the virtual attendees to get to work using Face ID in their apps before the hardware officially launches.

This would make sense — after all, Apple is widely expected to announce its upcoming switch to ARM processors at WWDC 2020, something that could be many months (or more) from making it into an official product. Giving developers a heads up on something as complex as Face ID should provide them ample time to implement it into their apps.

Ultimately, we will have to wait until June 22 to find out for sure. Trying to predict Apple’s future moves often feels like stabbing in the dark, but I am hoping this time we might land a hit.

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Alex Blake
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