Credit: Piotr Swat/ShuttstockChrome turned 10 years old this month, and Google celebrated by releasing a major update that changed the browser's user interface and improved performance, among other things. But the company isn't done tinkering just because Chrome's been around for a decade. This week it released a beta for Chrome 70 that includes Shape Detection, Web Authentication and numerous other updates to the popular browser.
Google Chrome Shape Detection
The Shape Detection API brings a device's existing ability to identify faces, barcodes and text back to the web. Shape Detection is actually three APIs in one: the Face Detection API, Barcode Detection API and Text Detection API (at least they're descriptively named). They all do pretty much what you'd expect, but here's Google's explanation of the APIs for posterity:
"Given an image bitmap or a blob, the Face Detection API returns the location of faces and the locations of eyes, noses and mouths within those faces. To give you rudimentary control of performance, you can limit the number of returned faces and prioritize speed over performance. The Barcode Detection API decodes barcodes and QR codes into strings. (There is a QR code demo at https://qrsnapper.com/) The value can be anything from a single set of digits to multi-line text. The Text Detection API reads Latin-1 text (as defined in iso8859-1) in images."
The ability to detect faces, barcodes and text on the web could offer some interesting opportunities to web developers. Adding facial recognition is the first step towards enabling face-based security like Apple's FaceID, for example, and text detection could enable all kinds of utilities. Barcode and QR scanning would probably be less useful in the U.S.--QR codes are used far more frequently elsewhere--but at least the option's there.
Google Chrome Web Authentication
The Web Authentication API update adds support for a PublicKeyCredential type, which "allows web applications to create and use strong, cryptographically attested and application-scoped credentials to strongly authenticate users." This credential type was enabled by default in Chrome 67 for desktop, and now it's enabled by default on Chrome for Android too, which should help bring those versions of the browser closer to parity.
Another update to the Web Authentication API enables the use of TouchID on macOS and the fingerprint sensor on Android devices. That means website operators will be able to ask you to verify your identity with a thumbprint instead of requiring a password. That has its pros and cons--biometric security can be stronger than bad passwords but vulnerable to various attacks--but it also makes the web more like native applications.
Chrome 70 will also receive support for TLS 1.3, a version of the protocol that features "a simpler, less error-prone design that improves both efficiency and security." Google is also making changes to how the browser handles various HTML elements and media, enabling web Bluetooth on Windows 10 and making a series of other changes that impact Chrome developers but will probably go unnoticed by most of the browser's users.