Hewlett-Packard Co. denied claims that its webcams are racist after a YouTube video - which showed a black man and a white woman testing out HP's webcam face-tracking software and get different results - went viral.
The facial-tracking software is supposed to follow users as they move, but it fails to recognize Desi, a black man. However, when his white co-worker, Wanda, steps into the frame, it immediately recognizes her and follows her in the frame.
As soon as my blackness enters the frame ... it stopped, Desi said. As soon as white Wanda appears, the camera moves. Black Desi gets in there? Nope, no facial recognition anymore, buddy. I'm going on record and I'm saying it. Hewlett-Packard computers are racist.
Despite the accusations, Desi is good-natured with his statement and appears to be even amused by the problem.
According to Hewlett-Packard, the software is designed to find faces by measuring the contrast between the eyes and upper cheek and nose. It however, fails to do so if the skin complexion is darker
We are working with our partners to learn more, HP said in a blog. 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.
Everything we do is focused on ensuring that we provide a high-quality experience for all our customers, who are ethnically diverse and live and work around the world, HP continued. That's why when issues surface, we take them seriously and work hard to understand the root causes.
The YouTube video, under the title “HP Computers Are Racist,” has over 100,000 views so far.
“Hewlett-Packard computers are racist. I said it,” Desi says in the video. “And the worst part is, I bought one (HP MediaSmart computer) for Christmas.”
Watch the video below: