Google to roll out AI-powered theft detection on Android phones

Google is introducing a new artificial intelligence (AI) that can tell if your phone gets grabbed from your hand or off a table, automatically locking it down for security.

The feature, which was announced at Google’s I/O conference, uses sophisticated AI through the phone’s sensors to detect suspicious motions, is being released as part of Android 15, but will also be available to users who have operating systems as old as Android 10. Several other security measures are being introduced by Google over the coming months such as a private space to hide sensitive apps and increased authentication steps.

Automatic protection after a phone is stolen

Auto Theft Detection will use the phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, among other sensors, to detect when a phone has been grabbed. Google studied how phones tend to get stolen and then had staff reenact phone thefts to gather data on what phone thefts look like from a data and input perspective.

It has been found that if a thief takes a phone that is unlocked, for example out of a user’s hand, they frequently open the camera because this will stop the phone from automatically locking. The new anti-theft technology will prevent them from doing this.

There will also be a new Offline Device Lock feature added. Thieves will often take a device offline to prevent remote locking, but if active, this feature will automatically lock the phone when the device is in offline mode for a predetermined time.

Having your phone stolen is a stressful and potentially traumatic experience, so Google is also making it easier to lock your phone remotely. Previously users would need to log into Find My Device in order to do this, but remembering login details can be difficult under pressure, so you will soon be able to lock the phone’s screen with just the phone number and a security prompt.

This is not the only AI-powered technology Google has announced at this year’s I/O conference – the company will also be increasing the AI in its search engine and has launched Veo, a text-to-video generative AI model.

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Ali Rees