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Kinect May Have Issues with Dark-Skinned Users

GameSpot reports that while testing out Kinect, the system failed to identify two dark-skinned employees, while lighter-skinned employees were recognized immediately. However, the situation with Kinect's facial recognition isn't so black and white. GS's Brendan Sinclair writes that though system recognized one employee inconsistently and was never able to properly identify another despite repeated calibration attempts, it was able to recognize a third dark-skinned staff member. Though this could be put down to Kinect's facial recognition software just being dodgy as a whole, Sinclair reports lighter-skinned employees were consistently picked up on the first try.

The situation is reminiscent of HP's face-tracking webcams, which had problems tracking the faces of users with darker skin tones.

"We are working with our partners to learn more," HP said in a statement issued at the time. "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."

Microsoft has not said if Kinect's facial recognition camera is suffering from the same issue. A representative spoke to GameSpot and had the following to say:

"The goal of Kinect is to break down the barriers for everyone to play, and it will work with people of all shapes and ethnicities at launch."

The rep also gave a phone number (1-800-4-MY-XBOX) for people to call if they're having problems with calibration or recognition.

Whether or not Kinect has problems identifying people with dark skin, it's important to note that this won't stop anyone playing Kinect because the system tracks your whole body, not just your face. However, users experiencing problems will have to sign in manually, rather than enjoy the privilege of having Kinect sign them in when they walk into the room.

Read the full story here.

[Update] Consumer Reports has done a little test to see if Kinect really is 'racist,' as many sites are reporting. The consumer advocate group says that it is similar to the HP webcam problem in that the Kinect cameras need a certain amount of light to recognize faces. CR found that the system had problems recognizing users with both light and dark skin when there was insufficient light in the gaming environment, and added that there wasn't any instance when one person was recognized and another wasn't under the same lighting conditions.

Check out what Consumer Reports had to say:

"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.

  • dogman_1234
    Kinect is racist...
    Reply
  • shening
    rofl !!!
    Reply
  • Xatos
    As if Kinect was the first to have issues with dark-skinned people...
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    I remember the linked HP article with video. The users in the video where funny.
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    Wait for the racist jokes and flames to begin..it was bound to happen... :D
    Reply
  • coldtortilla
    Cmon people cameras aren't racist or else they wouldn't even start up if you were this color or that color, its like cell phone or any other cameras when you try to take a picture in the dark either you don't come out or it looks like crap. Well same goes for kinect so turn on the lights or, just don't bother using kinect.
    Reply
  • the_krasno
    Could be that it was tested prominently on light skinned people: asians and caucasians.
    Reply
  • Randomacts
    I knew M$ was racist!!!
    Reply
  • Trashit
    ROFLMAO!!!!! Bout the funniest thing ive read all week on here
    Reply
  • nforce4max
    LOLs XD

    Better than TSA :o
    Reply