You may soon be able to Sign to Unlock with your Surface Pen (patent)

A major focus for Microsoft over the last few years has been bringing a Natural User Interface to Windows 10, which has meant in practice more integration of voice, touch and stylus to allow us to operate our PCs in a way that is intuitive to us from our day-to-day lives.

Now Microsoft has applied for a new patent “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR AUTHENTICATION WITH A COMPUTER STYLUS” which would bring another element of our daily lives, authorising something using your signature, to our electronic world.

The abstract for the patent reads:

A method for securing operation of a computing device operated with a stylus includes recognizing a pre-defined gesture performed by a stylus on a touch screen, the pre-defined gesture defined as a user command to lock an item displayed on the touch screen, determining a location of the gesture, determining identity of the stylus, locking an item displayed at the location determined, and recording identity of the stylus. A method for operating a computing device with a stylus includes receiving a command with a stylus to add restricted annotations to a document, receiving identity of the stylus, linking an annotation to the identity, restricting display of the annotation on the document to a computing device receiving input from the stylus; and displaying the document absent the at least one annotation on a computing device on which input from the stylus is not received.

The patent focusses on two elements – using an active pen such as the Surface Pen as a secure token which would by itself be part of a two factor authentication system, and then adding a second factor via an authorization gesture such as a signature to allow either users access to secure data such as unlocking their PC or to make verified annotations to documents e.g. adding their real signature to a document.

With Windows Hello Microsoft, of course, has a flexible interface for secure authorization on Windows 10 PCs, and I would not be surprised if unlocking your PC with your signature is a new perk for Surface Pen users or Windows 10 PCs with other active pens.

The full patent can be read here.

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