Microsoft files patent application for pen-based authentication technology

Microsoft Surface Book
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Windows 10 has a great new feature, Hello, that makes it easy to securely log in without entering a password or touching a keyboard. Two methods are available today — facial recognition via infrared camera and fingerprint scanner — and new methods are being dreamed up by Microsoft and other companies.

A new patent application, No. 2010/0155153, indicates Microsoft is looking into using the stylus as a new Windows Hello mechanism. Given that more and more Windows 10 machines are pen-enabled, that makes some good sense and could make for another very convenient way to log into a PC.

It’s important to note here that Windows 10 Hello does more than just log into a machine. It can also be used to authorize various application-specific tasks, like verifying purchases and entering passwords. And so the act of picking up the stylus to work in an application makes it a particularly efficient way to authenticate.

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Microsoft’s patent application hopes to leverage that convenience, with a combination of a unique marker embedded in a pen or stylus that provides a kind of two-factor authentication to go along with a gesture that is written on the screen. According to the documentation, Microsoft’s technology would use a combination pen proximity, gestures, and touch input, with a host of options in terms of mixing up hardware, software, and even application files in order to create a highly customized authentication method.

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In terms of the pen technology itself, the patent application specifically mentions Microsoft’s own N-Trig technology, which is used in the Surface Pen throughout the Surface line of Windows 10 machines. Presumably, then, this patent describes technology that could be implemented with the current Surface line of products or, at worst, with future Surface machines build with N-Trig pens and active digitizer screens.

In any event, it is clear that Microsoft continues to look for new and innovate ways to make it easier to log into and authenticate processes on our Windows 10 machines. While many more patents are filed than products actually make it to the market, it is nevertheless encouraging to see a company continuing to push the envelope in designing new and better ways for us to use technology.