There's a vicious catch-22 surrounding passwords: if a human being can remember them, they're not really secure. And if they're really secure, no normal human can remember them all.

At the moment, the recommended solution to this conundrum is various password managers, which promise to remember your myriad secure passwords for you. But many of us are lazy and simply cross our fingers and hope the handful of not-super-strong passwords we use for everything don't get hacked instead. There has to be a better way.

According to a host of startups and researchers there soon will be. Across the world some very smart folks are currently figuring out ways to make memorizing dozens of mind-scrambling alphanumeric strings a thing of the past using  futuristic technology.

1. Behavioral biometrics

What if you could verify your identity just by the unique angles and levels of pressure you apply when you touch a screen or keyboard? This alternate approach to current password tech is known as "behavioral biometrics" and Google's Project Abacus is now developing the technology, Quartz recently reported.

But apparently, in Scandinavia the idea is already far more advanced than it is here in the States. "In Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, it's integrated into a system called BankID, which major banks use to identify their customers," writes the site's Joon Ian Wong.

"BankID tracks the the speed at which users type, and the angle by which they swipe their touchscreens, among other measures, to build up a profile of the user over time. If the user's behavior is consistent, she won't need to constantly punch in a password. But if the user's behavior changes by a certain threshold, the system prompts the user for a password," he explains.

According to a the Financial Times' Hannah Kuckler, Israeli startup Biocatch is also playing in the same space.

2. Voice recognition

Another way to make sure that someone is who they say they are is voice recognition. Pindrop, an Atlanta-based startup backed by Google and Andreessen Horowitz is a leader in the field, according to the same FT article, having monitored 360 million calls to banks and other institutions to develop its sophisticated tech.

This tech may soon have other uses too. "Pindrop is trying to develop its technology to work in increasingly popular voice-activated devices such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home. If people are going to use these new computing platforms to make purchases and move money, companies are going to need a reliable method of authentication," reports Kuckler.

3. Facial recognition... with a twist

Why not just rely on facial recognition to identify users? The technology to reliably match faces to identities may soon be there, but the trouble, apparently, is making sure that the face being scanned belongs to an actual human.

"On mobile devices it is easy to spoof, take a photo or a video of someone and hold it in front of the camera," says Elke Oberg, marketing manager at Cognitec, a German facial recognition company that is trying to crack the problem. One possible solution? Combine facial recognition with a required gesture, like a particular wink or movement of the head, to make the process more secure.

Published on: Jun 14, 2016