Yet Another Biometric: Ear Shape

This acoustic technology identifies individuals by their ear shapes. No information about either false positives or false negatives.

Posted on April 23, 2018 at 7:48 AM • 21 Comments


Peter A.April 23, 2018 10:06 AM

So you need to wear special (wired?) earphones (with built-in microphones), that play some sound into your ear and record the reflection while working on a computer. Once you take them off or they dislodge a bit your computer locks automatically and only unlocks when you put them back on correctly. And you can play mp3's over them! Cool, looks like a nice and comfortable authentication system for the noise-addicted millenials.

Next thing: USB handcuffs sporting biometric identification of the wearer. Includes support for the new USB type J locking connector. Durable steel-clad 0.5m cable. Bonus feature: administering electrical shock for misbehaving lusers.

echoApril 23, 2018 10:12 AM

Humans are such a mess of redundant systems. If we all just evolved into being perfects spheres and squares and other Platonic ideals (for diversity) then all these clever schemes would fall apart wouldn't they?

Honestly, if this carries on they will be counting nostril hairs next. Can you imagine that?!

Peter GalbavyApril 23, 2018 10:12 AM

My Nura headphones use otoacoustic (sp?) tech to build an equalisation profile for each user and also can tell which user (of the three loaded profiles at least) has put them on and will autoselect.

On the other hand I managed to perforate my right eardrum on holiday and this has thrown things out of the window, so I would hate to have to try to login to my bank or other biometric protected account using such a fragile method.

FRexApril 23, 2018 11:23 AM

I wonder how many people they tested it on so far and if there's a chance that it will fall apart if there is only a couple (hundred) million different "ear canal reflection patterns" total and they got such a good 1:1 mapping due to the relatively small sample size containing only differing patterns.

D-503April 23, 2018 11:46 AM

Have these people never heard of earwax?
A bigger issue: the NEC press release refers to "authentication". Hopefully this is just a mistranslation from the Japanese for "username".
For reasons that have been discussed many times here, a biometric should never be relied on for authentication.

AlejandroApril 23, 2018 12:57 PM

I oppose biometrics of every kind.

However, ear cavities and other novel indicators are less worrisome at this point because they are not currently and never have been collected for the world wide police state data base.

albertApril 23, 2018 1:42 PM

This link provides a -little- more information:

This system measures the 'ear canal', and they claim to be able to get data from the inner ear (behind the eardrum) as well. I don't the idea of someone injecting ultrasound into my ear, especially through an earbud.

Where's the research on this? What are the effects of ultrasound on human ears?

Earwax? Good question. If earwax is a problem, will they have to look inside your ear first, or make you clean it out?:)
We need to limit the extent to which 'researchers' are allowed to go regarding biometrics.

. .. . .. --- ....

Peter PearsonApril 24, 2018 12:01 PM

Footnote required to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box.

old_engineerApril 24, 2018 12:43 PM

I wear hearing aids. This is an instant fail for me. Another confound would be ear wax.

David A WilsonApril 24, 2018 3:51 PM

This sounds quite invasive. I'm sure I have a unique anal buttprint, too, but I'm not about to start letting the government take my buttscan as long as we have fingerprints.

GuestApril 24, 2018 4:40 PM

I don't the idea of someone injecting ultrasound into my ear, especially through an earbud.

Ah, but it is inaudible. You will not have to be bothered by the sonic wave itself.

In related news, there's an effort underway to create biometric profiles of suspected terrorists by studying the reflection of microwaves off their body. The microwaves themselves are completely non-intrusive, in the sense that noone can physically feel them.

Peter A.April 25, 2018 3:50 AM

@Guest: "The microwaves themselves are completely non-intrusive, in the sense that noone can physically feel them."

Well, unless you crank up the power quite a bit... That'll be useful even. Identify first, fry next. Or the other way round.

VinnyGApril 25, 2018 8:52 AM

@echo re: perfect spheres or cubes - or possibly an indistinguishable part of a "hive" culture such as Robert Heinlein's character Mary Sperling (Methuselah's Children, Time Enough For Love.) It's clear to me that there are people who truly would welcome such a transformation. No, thanks, like Popeye, I'll remain as I am, with all my faults intact :)

echoApril 27, 2018 1:58 PM


I wondered if this idea had been covered by speculative fiction and such would be the case. Thanks.

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