It stands to reason that stepping into a cutting-edge mixed reality headset would involve your eyes.
Designed to be largely hands-free without a traditional keyboard, touchscreen or mouse, Apple’s long-awaited Vision Pro headset is secured with a new authentication system called Optic ID, which uses iris scanning to authenticate users.
Speaking at Apple’s WWDC 2023 keynote event on Monday, company officials said this kind of data is always unique, even when you’re talking about identical twins. Just as with Apple’s other biometric identification methods, such as Face ID used on the latest iPhones and Touch ID that preceded it, Optic ID data is encrypted, stored in the secure enclave of the device and never leaves it.
In addition to unlocking the headset, the authentication system will also be used with other sensitive and finance-related features such as Apple Pay, app store purchases and automatic password completion, Apple said.
During its presentation on Monday, Apple revealed few details about exactly how the system will work, making it difficult for outside observers to gauge exactly how secure it might be. An Apple spokesperson did not immediately return an email seeking additional information.
Using iris scanning as a form of authentication is nothing new. For example, they are used at airports across the country as part of Clear system. But attempts to integrate iris scanners into consumer technology have not always been successful. In 2017, the iris scanner included in Samsung’s Galaxy S8 phone was hacked by cybersecurity researchers who were able to fool it with a photo of a legitimate user’s eye and a contact lens.
Also at Monday’s event, Apple said other security and privacy features of the mixed reality headset include a design that keeps what the user looks at private, noting that what a person chooses to look at has the potential to give away what is i think about.
Apple said the data is isolated in a separate background process, so apps and websites can’t see what the user is looking at. Only when a user taps their fingers or enters a response on another Apple device is the data transmitted and processed at the system level.
The Vision Pro should go on sale next year for $3,499.