Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

Summary: updated below:Uh-oh. Some early reports are surfacing that Kinect, the controller-free experience for Microsoft's XBox 360, is having trouble recognizing dark-skinned players.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility
36

updated below:

Uh-oh. Some early reports are surfacing that Kinect, the controller-free experience for Microsoft's XBox 360, is having trouble recognizing dark-skinned players.

A post on GameSpot's blog this week reported that at least "two dark-skinned GameSpot employees" had trouble getting the facial recognition feature to work. Sure, you could maybe blame it on lighting or webcam calibration or something else - but that's really something that should have been tested, re-tested and resolved before the release of Kinect today.

Gallery: Xbox 360 Kinect takes the controller from video gamers

The system reportedly had no trouble recognizing light-skinned people.

It's unclear how widespread the problem is - if, in fact, it's a problem at all. For all we know, this was an isolated incident. But it does cause some eyebrow-raising after an embarrassing YouTube video (below) surfaced last year of a white woman and an African-American man putting the facial recognition technology on an HP Media Smart computer to the test.

The technology had no problem recognizing the woman - but the system would not respond to the man.

It's too early to start labeling Kinect as racist - but it will be interesting to see if this becomes a widespread problem as consumers start to buy it. Microsoft has said it expects to ship about 5 million units by the end of the year.

update: Consumer Reports, in its own blog post today, debunks this problem. It writes:

Here's what we found: The log-in problem is related to low-level lighting and not directly to players' skin color. Like the HP webcam, the Kinect camera needs enough light and contrast to determine features in a person's face before it can perform software recognition and log someone into the game console automatically.

Essentially, the Kinect recognized both players at light levels typically used in living rooms at night and failed to recognize both players when the lights were turned down lower. So far, we did not experience any instance where one player was recognized and the other wasn't under the same lighting conditions.

This problem didn't prevent anyone who was affected from playing Kinect games, since it can "see" and track players' bodies and motions using a built-in infrared lighting system.

Topic: Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

36 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Idiot posts

    like this are the reason race relations are going backward, not forward. In a couple of words - you are a sick $0b.
    sackbut
    • this is actually a real problem...

      @sackbut - lots of automated camera tech has contrast set up for people with lighter skin.. that's just a fact.. these guys f'd up... they forgot that a good portion of the population is going to require different contrasts setting in order for the software to work and the didn't include it in their implementation.. it's a bug like any other.. and a big one.. fix it!
      doctorSpoc
      • Where is your proof?

        @doctorSpoc
        [i] they forgot that a good portion of the population is going to require different contrasts setting in order for the software to work and the didn't include it in their implementation.. it's a bug like any other.. and a big one.. fix it![/i]

        And you base this opinion on:
        [i]at least ?two dark-skinned GameSpot employees? had trouble getting the facial recognition feature to work[/i]

        Huh. Funny, you were a [b]huge[/b] defender of all the iPhone-gates because they only affected hundreds or thousands of people yet here you are jumping with joy because Kinect didn't work for at least 2 people?

        Cue the double standards...
        NonZealot
      • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

        @doctorSpoc

        The technical aspect of the blog post is one thing. The accusation of racism is another. I noticed you didn't have the guts to defend such bu11$hit.
        sackbut
      • do you people have no sense of humour at all??

        @sackbut ..what is wrong with you?? you can't detect sarcasm when you hear it?? <br><br>the guy on the video is having some fun at the expense of HP who f'd up their product by not making some obvious consideration for a portion of their customer base.. those of colour.. that's it.. you honestly think the guy is really calling HP racist?? get a grip man.. and a sense of frick'n humour.. sheesh!!
        doctorSpoc
    • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

      @sackbut

      How do you flag blogs as unacceptable? Where's the dislike button?

      Of course Sam is no journalist, but beating this up from a post on another blog is a new low.

      Looks like MS has another best seller, judging by the quality of the FUD.
      tonymcs@...
  • Ahhh, the blogosphere is going to have a FIELD day today!!

    I expect at least 10 more anti-Kinect articles, each of them describing serious issues being faced by 1 or 2 people.

    Hey, you guys gotta keep the Apple marketing department happy!
    NonZealot
    • What does this have to do with Apple??

      @NonZealot... Oh I know why, it had nothing to do with Apple, so to inject yourself into the conversation you blame it on Apple's marketing department. You truly are a spamming troll.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • And the blogosphere IS going nuts

      http://www.google.com/search?q=kinect+facial+recognition

      What do we get? Most of the results are from a ton of different sites all reporting the same thing: Kinect has problems with facial recognition of dark skinned people. All of this based on 1 report by Gamespot of 2 darkskinned people. 1 report. 2 people. 50 articles blasting Kinect for being racist.

      What I [b]especially[/b] loved was this though:
      http://news.yahoo.com/s/pcworld/20101104/tc_pcworld/ismicrosoftskinectracist
      [i]A third dark-skinned reviewer had no problems getting his face recognized by Kinect's cameras[/i]

      Yeah. Uh huh.

      My prediction was right on. I knew that the blogosphere was going to have a field day on this one and they did. Remember folks, all of this from 1 report of 2 people.
      NonZealot
      • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

        @NonZealot You gotta love these blog posts that have a question as the headline. Real weasely stuff. On top of that, most of them couldn't even bother to actually find a dark-skinned person to try this out for themselves on a Kinect. That would've actually been useful, but no, it's way easier to pile on an unsubstantiated story with a link-bait headline.
        kdilkington
    • This comes as no surprise to me

      @NonZealot as the blogosphere went nuts over the issues with AT&T and iPhone a while back over the unverified reports of one person who had reception issues with his iPhone and went to the Apple store...

      It all in what FUD can get more clicks.
      athynz
  • pobrecito Zeal0t

    @Zeal0t u make me laugh at you .. many people poited that you are on M$ payroll.. now u proved it ..
    i dont know why some people suffer from the Apple-psyco-Complex.. Focus on your problems ... Apple and its Consumers are happy together.
    pss one thing.. <strong>the Era of Apple vs M$ is already out.. apple already won .. now the Era of Apple VS ALL OTHERS has just started.. </strong> be cause in the Market there's only two :
    1-Apple
    2-The Others
    LionSaba
    • 2010 Biggest Joke, Apple already Won ? Where ? In your Home ?

      @abbasito Apple Won ? Where ? Do you've figures ? Android is more popular than iOS. More people tend to develop app's for Android & WP7, not iPhone. iOS market share in US decreased last Qtr. i.e. -0.4%. Apple TV is still hobby for Jobs. Mac OS prices are slashed day by day. Mac Mini prices are slashed, to stay alive. iPhone 4 with Antena & Glassgate issues. <br><br>Where in the world you're for the last 3-6months...? Wen't to Antartica and came back yesteray....?
      jinishans
      • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

        @jinishans so u belong to the others.. hahha i just cited apple.. you cited mM$ google (htc, motorola,samsung...).. <strong>u just missed Adidas and FIAT </strong> lol
        isn't your post a big proof of Apple vs all the others ??
        u cited apple's antenna's problem.. well if cite all the others u defend in vain i need maybe a DVD of 4.7 gb full of text not only a 1000 pages encyclopedia..
        man u need to see a Doctor.. or at least get some Courses.. marijuana may help u to sleep.
        man read the Stocks, read 'em damn !
        LionSaba
    • Touche!

      But the guy has a problem, and he obviously doesn't seek help.
      @abbasito
      GoPower
      • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

        @GoPower maybe if we seek in Potatoes vs tomatoes forums u'll find him defending M$
        the Guy really needs to sleep.. marijuana may help him to hahaaa
        LionSaba
    • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

      @abbasito

      I like cake.
      rtk
      • RE: Tech racism? Will dark-skinned gamers have trouble with Kinect's facial recognition?

        @rtk <br><i>PS While you are at it, care to counter a single thing John Zern wrote? The fact that you didn't when you had the chance suggests that you can't. Or you would have. But you didn't. So you probably can't.</i><br><br>well if the things he mention actually had some relevance to anything then maybe i might... dispute this.. the sky is blue.. sometimes red in the morning's and evenings.. so what?<br><br>between 3rd and 4th quarter.. the market for iPhones was pretty much frozen with confirmation from the Gizmodo leak that iPhone 4 was coming.. who in their right mind would buy a 3GS knowing that the 4th gen was right around the corner<br><br>apple abandon the server market.. irrelevant at this point.. on the desktop.. Apple has moved into double digits in computers in the US.. they sell 11% and take 35% of the profits.. they make more money than anyone else with 11% market share.. that's something to be ashamed of.. again like with the android example you take all the windows PC manufactures together and compare that to Apple.. that doesn't make any sense.. MS doesn't make computers... take apple compared to any individual PC company and apple kicks their butt in profits.. that's what matters.. that's what's relevant.. Zern's comments are about as relevant as the price of tea in china.. quite plainly.. his comments are idiotic.. have nothing to do with anything..<br><br>with iPad.. compared to the initial estimates of what iPad was 'supposed' to sell... according to the half-wit moron who said it was going to crash and burn and their was no use for it.. it has been an astronomical success.. look at what has come in terms of competition since... nothing.. smallish (in order to cost reduce and prop-up battery life), expensive shlock with no appropriate software to run on it BS.. apple owns this market at 95% market share.. will have free rain for another complete cycle as there are no competitors in the wings in spite of 9mth to do something.. what Apple has done by designing it's own SoC, battery life.. the competitors are scrambling.. they can't match that tech at that price point.. we see that now.. it's as plain as day..<br><br>anyway, i'm done... keep drinking the hateraid or whatever it is that M$ shills drink.. you guys are pretty entertaining though.. question: as ridiculous as your post are.. do you guys actually believe the bs you write here? no one could be that out of touch to actually think this stuff you're writing actually makes any kind of sense right?
        doctorSpoc
    • If you can't talk truthfully, why bother talking at all?

      didn't you notice that growth for iPhone where stagnent from 3rd to 4th quarter? Didn't you notice that Apple's desktop and server share is so much smaller then Microsofts? didn't you notice that iPad sold less then originally estimated? didn't you notice that AppleTv is still considered "a hobby"

      Well, we'll let you go on that as it appears you have a problem spelling, so maybe you have problems reading too.

      I mean, trolls aren't really known for their intelligence... :)
      John Zern
      • did you notice that Apple generated $6B more revenue that MS last quarter?

        @John Zern - and almost the same profit.. that Apple has a larger market capitalization that MS... that MS is on a slow slightly upward trajectory and Apple's is skyrocketing.. Apple just made more money in a quarter than google makes in a year.. you count all android phones together but what your saying is that apple.. alone, by itself sells as just slightly less phones than: HTC, Samsung, etc.. etc all the android manufactures put together.. remember they are all different companies.. MS is fast becoming a marginalized company looking for some relevance in this new world that has appeared in the last couple of year.. two years ago would you have thought that apple would be pulling in $5-6B more revenue that MS??

        you guys are nut.. the world has changed... deal with it!
        doctorSpoc