Is the Microsoft Kinect Having Trouble With Black Faces?

BlogHer Original Post

Assistants demonstrate the game Kinect Adventures for Kinect for Xbox 360 during a media briefing at the Wiltern theatre in Los Angeles June 14, 2010. Microsoft Corp will begin selling its Kinect motion-sensing game system on Nov. 4, before the crucial holiday season, hoping to lure new and casual players to the Xbox and steal a march on rivals. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY SCI TECH IMAGES OF THE DAY)

About a year ago, we heard reports about the webcam on an HP Touchsmart PC failing to track a black man's face using the state of the art tracking software built into the camera. However, when his white coworker stepped into the picture, the tracking resumed as it should. HP explained the problems as follows: "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," Welch explains. "We believe that the camera might have difficulty 'seeing' contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting."

Judge for yourself:

There are also other videos to be found that give the same impression. Bottom line, they should have performed better lighting tests when developing the device.

And now it has happened again. There are new reports that Microsoft's very cool new gaming system, the Xbox Kinect, is having the same issue. Employees in a Gamespot store playing around with the system had trouble getting the facial recognition software to recognize two dark-skinned employees. One of the two employee's was not recognized at all. Another dark-skinned employee was recognized inconsistently. However, a third dark-skinned employee was recognized just fine. Gamespot updated their blog to state that further testing showed that the problem also seemed to be affected by dark clothing, not just skin tone.

Microsoft has been marketing the device as accessible to all audiences. However, this problem may certainly affect sales to African-American customers.

And like HP, Microsoft is saying that is is all in the lighting. If having trouble being recognized, users should adjust their lighting for optimal use. Yeah ... no playing in the dark. I am interested to see if they can roll out some sort of update to improve the lighting sensor problem.

What do you think?

Kris Cain is Chicago area mom to 2 sets of twins, photography nut, gadget addict, web designer, and blogger who has worked in IT for over 13 years. On her blog, LittleTechGirl.com she writes about her love of gadgets, technology, and her children.

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