Apple's Philip Schiller speaks about the iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California. Apple's Philip Schiller speaks about the iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California. Apple's Philip Schiller speaks about the iPhone X during a media event at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California. (Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

Who's behind the coolest new feature on the iPhone X?

Apple turned to its R&D center in Israel for their new Face ID technology.

The wait is over. Apple unveiled the highly anticipated new iPhone models at an event streamed around the world.

Called the iPhone X, it marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone's debut in 2007. While there are many new whiz-bang features on the phone, one in particular caught our attention: Face ID. The new technology is an infrared face scanner that will unlock your iPhone simply by looking at it. (Die-hard From The Grapevine readers will recall that we predicted this back in the summer of 2015. OK, so we were off by two years. We're not perfect.)

A crowd of people wait to enter the Steve Jobs Theater ahead of an event where Apple introduced the newest iPhone.A crowd of people wait to enter the newly built Steve Jobs Theater ahead of an event where Apple introduced the latest iPhone. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

The ability for a phone that fits in your pocket to scan and recognize a face seems like something out of a science-fiction movie. But it's now a reality thanks to Israeli technology. Back in 2014, Apple acquired PrimeSense, a 3D sensing company founded by entrepreneur Aviad Maizels, an alumnus of the Technion Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science, both in Israel. The MIT Technology Review named it one of the world's 10 most important technologies.

And earlier this year, the California-based tech giant acquired another startup from Israel called RealFace that specializes in facial recognition technology. The startup was founded in 2014 by three Israeli entrepreneurs: Adi Eckhouse Barzilai, a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel; Aviv Mader, an alumnus of Tel Aviv University; and Gidi Littwin, also an alum of Tel Aviv University. You can meet them in the video below:

So how does the new iPhone's Face ID technology actually work? We'll let Brian X. Chen of The New York Times explain: "[It] uses an infrared camera system on the front of the phone to scan the contours and shape of a person’s head to unlock the phone and authorize mobile payments. The technology works by spraying an object with infrared dots to gather information about the depth of an object based on the size and the contortion of the dots. The imaging system can then stitch the patterns into a detailed 3D image of your face to determine if you are indeed the owner of your smartphone before unlocking it."

In recent years, Apple has doubled down on its interest in Israel, where it built a 180,000-square-foot Mediterranean R&D lab in the coastal Israeli city of Herzliya. Apple has three offices in Israel, totaling more than 1,000 employees. The company's interest in the Israeli high-tech scene began shortly after CEO Tim Cook took over the company from an ailing Steve Jobs in 2011. With the purchase of four Israeli startups and the recruitment of more than 1,000 Israeli engineers, it has pivoted toward Israel as a base to continue research and development of hardware and semiconductors. This is essential for a company that relies heavily on smaller and more powerful processors that allow for the sleek and minimalist design of its products. Israel has proved to be an elite breeding ground for such technology.

An aerial view of downtown Herzliya in Israel.An aerial view of downtown Herzliya in Israel, home to Apple's development lab. (Photo: Roman Yanushevsky/Shutterstock)

With this expansion in Israel, it should come as no surprise that in 2014, Apple also moved to shore up its corporate connection to the country, appointing Israel-born Johny Srouji to Vice President of Hardware Technologies. Srouji, a graduate of Israel's Technion Institute of Technology, will lead "all custom silicon architecture and development," and will be responsible for "many of Apple’s industry-leading devices," according to an Apple news release.

Apple's development center in Herzliya near the Mediterranean metropolis of Tel Aviv is its largest outside of the United States. And according to the company, more than 6,000 iPhone app developers also reside in Israel.

"Apple is in Israel because the engineering talent and the brilliance of the people are incredible," Cook said during a visit to Israel. "We have an enormous admiration for Israel."


Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows