Having trouble with Windows Hello face recognition? Try a Jedi mind trick!


[Note: This was originally titled "Windows Hello face recognition is vulnerable to the Jedi mind trick" but many people overreacted to the the word "vulnerable".]

Here's a handy tip if you use Windows Hello face recognition, which is available on the Surface Pro 4, Surface Book and a number of other devices: If the device doesn't recognize you, use the Jedi hand wave.

Here's the deal: Suppose you walk up to your device and try to sign in with Windows Hello face recognition, but the recognition fails for whatever reason, say, because the lighting conditions aren't right. Even if you fix the problem, the face recognition has already determined that "This face in front of me is not anyone I know." In order to get it to re-evaluate the face, you have to make the device "see" a new face. One way of doing that is to move your head out of the field of view of the camera, and then bring it back in.

But another way to do this is to wave your hand slowly in front of the camera, as if you were performing a Jedi mind trick. (Fool your friends!)

Waving your hand in front of the camera interrupts the view of your face, causing the device to attempt to recognize this "new" face that suddenly appeared in front of it.

Once you get logged in, you may want to go to the Sign-in options settings page and select Improve recognition, so that it learns your new face.

But anyway, the point is: Jedi mind trick. It works in real life.

Comments (20)
  1. Entegy says:

    Windows Hello is just too good. I set up a coworker’s new Surface and for fun had registered my face for my account. I brought it to his desk and he started to sign into his account, at which point we switched seats so I could do some last steps for him. At that point, the Surface recognized my face, interrupted his login, and logged me into my account!

    Face recognition for UAC prompts is also great. No more having to type long passwords!

    1. dirk gently says:

      Could I use a photo of you to log in to your account?

      1. Photos generally don’t work because they’re using more than just visible light to scan the faces (which is why it even works in low-light conditions, although it’s a little more finicky in full sunlight).

  2. Nick says:

    I’ve done the “talk to the hand” gesture to the camera but I never thought of the “Jedi mind trick” gesture. Usually I use this gesture so that I have time to step away from the computer after locking it, it’s just too fast!

  3. deiruch says:

    It’d be awesome if face recognition just kept trying. Have the same issues with the iris scanner on my Windows Phone and often need to turn it off and on again to restart the recognition process.

    1. Agreed, though I wonder what the power draw is for those components.

  4. pete.d says:

    It seems to me that “it works” could only be claimed if you can use it when the face recognition is expecting someone *else’s* face.

    Saying it works for your own face is sort of like if Kenobi had said to the storm troopers “these are the droids you’re looking for, go ahead and take them.”

    1. Phylyp says:

      Pedant!

      1. Boris says:

        pete.d has a valid point, though: we really need to distinguish between the Jedi hand wave and mind trick. The hand wave is also used with telekinesis (when Obi-Wan is opening the door on Kamino, or when Anakin is flying food over to Padmé).

        1. SimonRev says:

          Well, the other major time that Jedi Mind Tricks are used is in Phantom Menace and Qui Gon Jinn definitely uses the hand wave when he tries the mind trick on Watto. And if, like me, you lived through the hype leading up to the movie you ended up seeing that sequence in the previews until it was burned in your retinas.

          1. Jolyon Direnko-Smith says:

            The hand wave as part of the mind trick makes no sense.

            In the context of the original “not the droids you’re looking for”, the hand gesture is used ONLY when Obi-Wan says “you don’t need to see his identification”. And it isn’t even really a wave, more a gesture of dismissal, completely in keeping with simply emphasising what he is saying. Like when you wag your finger at a child while telling them “No!”.

            It certainly doesn’t cover his face and is more like a “finger ripple” than a wave.

            If a wave were an intrinsic and necessary part of a mind trick, then the trick would never work since Jedi + waving hand = don’t believe a word they are saying. The trooper being addressed might be prevented from recognising the trick by the fact of having his mind messed with, but all his fellow squad members would *know* that their squad leader’s mind had been messed with and call out the fact.

            And the movie ends right there.

            So why did the hand wave re-appear in the prequels ?

            Simple: Because as much as we complain about JJ having mimicked/copied/borrowed without understanding, prequel-era George Lucas was actually a far, far worse offender in that regard).

  5. ChDF T says:

    After reading the title, I expected a “It rather involved being on the other side of this airtight hatchway” post (yes, the fact that the conventional prefix was missing should have tipped me off). But still, this is a neat trick.

  6. Speaking of Jedi mind trick, I have used The Force to obtain the “Lucky Shot” achievement in a video game called “HAWX”, pretty much in the same way that Skywalker used it to blow up the Death Star.

  7. Mark Y says:

    > But anyway, the point is: Jedi mind trick. It works in real life.

    But only on the weak-minded :)

  8. sulfide says:

    jedi mind trick only works on the weak minded, guess microsoft didn’t put much effort into this one eh?

  9. Jolyon Direnko-Smith says:

    I think the point of the Jedi Mind Trick is that it is something that is done with and to a mind. The hand gesture is just decorative. Something that works /because/ of the hand gesture is therefore not a Jedi Mind Trick. It’s still just gesture recognition.

    In this case, it’s not even that. It’s merely the result of a physical obstruction introduced to interfere with a /pattern/ recognition. If you held up a sheet of paper to cover your face and hide it from the facial recognition camera, with your hands not gesturing at all and perhaps not even in view of the camera, the effect would be the same.

    I don’t think even George Lucas would ever have sunk so low as to introduce Jedi Peek-a-Bo Tricks.

  10. xp.client says:

    I don’t have a RealSense camera to test Hello and it might be more secure but personally I find that the user having to perform some simple action to login is better instead of just arriving near the PC. As such, fingerprint > Hello camera for me. Does Windows Hello face recognition have any option to logon only by some trigger like if the user blinks twice or something similar?

  11. Dave Bacher says:

    On the Lumia 950, the device will ask you to “Move Closer” many times.

    It actually typically wants to “Move farther” instead.

  12. George says:

    Even easier: All you have to do is tap the camera.

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