Designers have developed a wearable device called Stealth to be put in the mouth that can e be used as a "surveillance-proof" authentication method.
Its advantage is that it can replace fingerprints and facial recognition, which are now under pressure due to Covid-19 related worries. Another advantage is that being an embedded biometric, it is less open to hacking.
The device can be used to keep users' sensitive, digital information safe by replacing passwords with mouth biometrics to verify one’s identity.
Design graduates Beren Kayali, Lu Ye, Paul Mendieta, and Lea Marolt Sonnenschein from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London developed the device.
The device resembles dental wire retainers and can be fitted in the roof of the mouth. The biometrics is done through the unique patterns of a person’s rugae – the ridges or folds of skin located on the mouth's palate.
Once you put the Stealth device in the mouth, it would scan your stored palate biometric to authenticate and match your identity.
Then, in order to unlock a particular device, a "one-time sense code" would be sent to the user via wifi – and a pre-defined intentional sensory gesture with the tongue needs to be performed for the code to activate. The gesture can be pressing the tongue or sliding.
“During our research, we found a method of creating an impression-based device that stays on the roof of the mouth with minimal discomfort. We made the first electronics integrated prototypes with the method. We are now working on further material exploration and miniaturization of the device,” say the innovators on their website.
"Within an authentication system, the human element is one of the weakest links," said the designers. "The current authentication methods and interfaces for access control are not resilient enough in the era of surveillance."
"Passwords are vulnerable to data breaches and shoulder-surfing by people or camera surveillance. They are also hard to manage, leading to significant numbers of compromises by careless insiders."
That's why more and more companies are moving towards biometrics," they continued. "However, people leave traces of biometrics easily and unconsciously everywhere, which makes them less reliable if they are targeted and forged."
The designers said that people thought facial and fingertip scanners were foolproof, but there is technology available that can give you a pass with any of such authentication, and it just costs around $2,000 (£1,523) in the market.
"Once biometrics are forged or hacked, we can do nothing to change them," they added. "If you think changing your password is difficult, try changing your fingerprint."
The mouth is a good candidate to develop biometrics through tongue print, teeth, palate rug, and saliva. And the best part is it is not easily open to duplications or stealing
Rugae was selected by the designers as it is very unique and does not even replicate within generations of a family.
The biometrics is scalable and can be used in AI-based algorithms. Stealth device can be used to combine different methods of in-mouth data collection such as biometrics, temperature, humidity and pressure along with AI
Another idea is to deliver digitally stimulated tastes to the mouth to communicate incoming calls or messages. Sweet , sour to denote and a certain number of taps to pick up or deny a call.
"It could be the most symbiotic and robust identification system of our generation," they said. "The overarching vision of this project is a future in which we can create a second skin inside the mouth to be used as an interface."
Th team says they are researching into using the saliva as a biomarker of diseases present. ”The data from your saliva is a mirror of your physical and mental health," the graduates explained. "Both the data of the instant and overtime is valuable."
"While it 's optimistic that saliva sensors will be ready within years, we believe there has to be the right medium to make them live inside people's mouths."
The team have registered their first patent for the design, and are actively working on developing a prototype.
Japanese researchers have developed something similar called the Norimaki Synthesizer, which uses five gel nodules made of dissolved electrolytes to replicate different food tastes.
The idea seems exciting but how far the implementation works is debatable. Not everyone will be open to having something embedded in their mouths, and the signaling seems a bit off. Tongue signaling is going to be off-key, it is not easy for everyone to manipulate the tongue. Chances of wrong messaging are higher here. For this reporter, it will take some convincing to adopt this device.