Meet Desi. He’s in front of an HP MediaSmart computer, and he’s testing out the webcam. The webcam is powered by a fancy face tracking software which allows it to track his face within the confine of the frame.
Is Desi a happy guy? No. Apparently the tracking software does not work for African-Americans, and he drives home the point in this video:
Granted, this video was made for laughs, and HP computers aren’t really racist. It’s apparently a screw-up with the tracking algorithm; it has a problem detecting contrast for darker skins.
HP has heard of this issue, and this is what they say about it:
Some of you may have seen or heard of a YouTube video in which the facial-tracking software didn’t work for a customer. We thank Desi, and the people who have seen and commented on his video, for bringing this subject to our attention.
We are working with our partners to learn more. The technology we use is built on standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. We believe that the camera might have difficulty “seeing” contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting.
Now if the face tracking software is based on standard algorithms, does that mean that we’d see “racist” webcams everywhere, and not only with HP? How come we haven’t heard of this problem before? I’d like to see more brands having problems tracking darker-skinned (not just African-American) people.