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A closer look at logging into a Windows 10 PC with just your face

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Windows 10 introduces a number of new apps and features, but one of the more unique additions is Windows Hello. Much like the Xbox One, Windows Hello will allow you to log into a Windows 10 PC with just your face. You can also use a fingerprint reader, but the facial scanning is the unique, new feature for Windows 10. It works by using a special Intel RealSense 3D camera, which means you can’t use regular webcams on existing PCs to enable Windows Hello. A number of PCs and laptops are starting to ship with built-in RealSense cameras, and more will be available later this year.

Windows Hello is relatively easy to setup. You go into settings, enable a PIN, and simply stare at the camera so it detects your face. If you use glasses, you can even fine-tune it so Windows 10 knows when you’re wearing them and when you’re not. Because it’s taking advantage of 3D depth-sensing and the RealSense camera, Windows Hello even works in the dark. I chose to test Windows Hello with an Intel RealSense developer kit. It’s priced at $99 and works as a normal webcam, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. I had a number of issues with the drivers, and if you have a built-in webcam already, then the two conflict unless you disable the existing camera. I wouldn’t expect to run into these types of issues on consumer PCs, but it’s a developer kit so it’s to be expected with test hardware and software.

Windows Hello stock

I’ve found Windows Hello is extremely fast at detecting your face. You can even enable the extra security option that requires you to move your head slightly left and right before it logs in. While there are always security concerns over this type of technology, Windows Hello uses 3D depth-sensing so it’s not just taking a picture of your face. That means you can’t just hold up a picture of someone to hack into their PC. Microsoft has taken the work from its Xbox One face recognition and applied it to Windows 10 to enable this new feature.

Once enabled, you get a new animated eye on the lock screen that looks for you and winks once it has detected you and automatically logged you in. I’ve found that the camera is only enabled during the times you use it to log in, so it’s not like the Kinect version that’s always enabled to look for you. It might sound like a gimmicky feature right now, but if PC makers start to ship more devices with RealSense cameras then it could quickly become a popular feature. Microsoft is also enabling Windows Hello for apps, services, and websites, so in the future you might be able to log into everything with just your face.