Sooner than you think, the Holy Grail of mobile password security could land on your phone thanks to new tech from Nuance called Dragon ID.
Dragon ID is a voice biometrics system from the same company behind the voice-recognition tech in Dragon Dictate for PCs and Dragon Go for iOS and Android. It promises a hands-free login system, but Nuance isn't putting it out in an app.
Instead, it's licensing the technology to manufacturers so they can build it into their phones.
"We're going to be pretty aggressive with our longstanding OEM partners, so we certainly hope to have something in the market available in the next several months to a year," said Kenneth Harper, Nuance's director of product management and marketing for mobile.
Nuance has been chary with details so far, but the implications could change how we use our smartphones. Dragon ID could be used to create and control simple logins for multiple user profiles, or to tie mobile payment options like Google Wallet to a specific voice command. "Dragon ID won't be used just for unlocking the phone, for security use-cases. We're really excited about personalization, such as on tablets. It can authenticate a user and identify a user" to pull up user-specific apps and settings, Harper said.
The technology behind Dragon ID has been available for enterprise and governments for years, with more than 20 million voice prints already registered. This marks the first time that Nuance will make it available on a consumer level. Harper said that Dragon ID will work on multiple mobile operating systems, including Android, Windows Phone, and Tizen. The core engine that powers Dragon ID is built in C++ and therefore is largely platform-agnostic, Harper explained.
As of now, Dragon ID supports a mix of eight European and Asian languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese, with plans to add more languages such as Brazilian, Russian, Cantonese, Latin American Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian.
While the Nuance-made video above shows that it works with multiple logins and in a variety of situations -- and could even be a Siri-slayer -- some potential security concerns remain unaddressed. Harper said that the technology does take into account changes in a person's voice. "Even when you're not sick your voice does change a bit throughout the day," and Dragon ID is flexible enough to recognize it through those fluctuations.
Harper conceded that a recording of you speaking your passphrase could be used to unlock the device, but he said that Dragon ID had security options. "One thing the manufacturers could do is let you train it to know multiple passphrases so that it rotates them, and makes it harder to break into your account."
Like Microsoft's Windows 8 picture password, it seems like a great supplement for daily use of a typed password, but at the end of the day we'll still be using typed passwords as our fallback logins for now.
Updated 5:10 p.m. PST with more details from Nuance.