Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Programming Idle

Racist Facial Recognition Software 49

An anonymous reader writes "A black man found that his HP facial-tracking recognition software wouldn't work. Then he discovered it worked fine for a white co-worker. From the article: 'HP's Tony Welch thanked Desi and Wanda, the video's creators, and promised that he and the team at HP were looking into why the camera was behaving the way it was. "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," he said. "We believe that the camera might have difficulty 'seeing' contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting."'"

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Racist Facial Recognition Software

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I do not think HP is out right racist. But his skin color does have an effect. His eyes, cheek, and nose are of similar color.
    Therefore the recognition software will interpret no difference in variables, because it can not see any contrast. This makes triangulation impossible. Simply a bug in software design.

    A possible solution would be an adjuster to the contrast ratio for the recognition points. Allowing the user to adjust it. Though hard to teach to people who prefer plug-n-play style of settings.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      This isn't even a bug in software design -- it's simple physics. Darker skin = less contrast = software has a harder time seeing him.
      • This isn't even a bug in software design -- it's simple physics. Darker skin = less contrast = software has a harder time seeing him.

        Watch the video again. Clearly there is MORE contrast between the background and the black guy than with the white woman because the background in that video is the light colored ceiling.

        • by dmizer ( 1081799 )

          Watch the video again. Clearly there is MORE contrast between the background and the black guy than with the white woman because the background in that video is the light colored ceiling

          It's not about contrast between the face and the background. Its about contrast within the face itself. The facial recognition feature is programmed to triangulate differences in contrast on the face itself. This way, the software can tell the difference between a face and something else that just happens to be around or ne

  • it just doesn't trust white people and need to keep an eye on them~

    It's also pretty clear the the creators of the software where white.

  • by mechsoph ( 716782 ) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @05:14PM (#30546980)
    When the robot wars come, then we'll see who's laughing...
  • Notice how slashdot jumps on the item as inflammatory of a way as possible.... calling it racist. Way to be fair slashdot.
    • by blhack ( 921171 )

      Or it could be that they're quoting what the know...said in the video.

      "I'm going on record...Hewlett Packard computers are racist, there I said it!"

      • I had heard about the item before slashdot so I was aware of the situation. Although the way it is phrased here on Slashdot is a shock headline to get you to read it. Seems to be a standard slimy practice. Not strange for Slashdot though.
  • TV to the rescue (Score:3, Informative)

    by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) * on Friday December 25, 2009 @01:13AM (#30549290) Journal
    Luckily, a similar situation was addressed and resolved in a Better off Ted [] episode.
  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @05:59AM (#30554990) Journal

    The recognition software is looking for contrast spots, such as shadow from the nose, eye-sockets, and ultimately the head shape, if these criteria isn't met - then it has a problem.

    It's the same with eg. Sony PS3's Playstation EYE - and eg. the new game EYEPET, you try that on at home against a dark floor, dark carpet, no matter how much light you put on, the pet won't react to you.

    Same with me - I'm a white guy, and unfortunately my floor is sorta white colored (wood, flesh like...if you're slightly yellow in the skin, don't worry - bad indoor light WILL look pale yellowish) ;)
    Even with 200 watts of lighting - I had problems with my EYEPET and PS camera, it's virtually useless and incredibly annoying.

    Trust me buddy, there's no difference with HP's camera software, the same stuff. Wait until MicroSofts Project NATAL comes out, then you're going to be pleased, it will reckognize ALL colors! Because it has an extra infrared camera!

    You're kind of funny though ;) You have a talent for talking on tv, not everybody have that gift, you do!

  • ...this was an "edge case" they obviously did not test for!

  • is the person that submitted this. It is DIFFICULT to get this kind of thing done correctly. Heck, America has spent BILLIONS since 9/11 trying to handle facial recognition. And we are still nowhere near close. To the original submitter, please keep your racism to yourself.
  • Oh, please (Score:3, Insightful)

    by new death barbie ( 240326 ) on Monday December 28, 2009 @12:04PM (#30571862)

    SOMEBODY developed this facial tracking software, and HP vetted it for installation on thousands or millions of computers.

    Either this problem will come as a complete surprise to them, or they knew about it and released it anyway. Both alternatives are pretty upsetting.

    Because either there were no test cases involving black people -- for an algorithm that depends on skin contrast, you'd think this would be a no-brainer -- or they knew there was a problem, but never expected black people to buy it.

  • A project that doesn't get outsourced to India and look what happens.
  • When in fact Skynet becomes self aware, this will be a good thing for the dude :)

  • 1. get a HP laptop
    2. tell ppl the laptop track ppl's soul
    3. claim u can get their soul back for them for a fee
    5. ???
    6. PROFIT!!!

  • Not to be offensive, but how greasy is this guy's face? You'd think there would be *more* contrast between his skin and his corneas and teeth, which would make a general "face" easier to pick out (even if it were a Cheshire-cat caricature, it's a baseline). However, there's a noticable glare off his forehead that I'd imagine would skew the results (as it'd significantly take a chunk out of his otherwise-round head to the point it wouldn't even hit on a fuzzy match).

    My suggestion is to get this guy some No

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin