HP webcam only tracks white people?

As seen on Geek.com, there was a video posted on YouTube of a black man and a white woman testing a theory that HP webcams don't properly track black peoples' faces. The man in the video comically entertains the idea by demonstrating how his HP webcam's facial recognition tracking won't follow him, but seems to have no trouble following his white co-worker.

In a non-angry way, the man calls out HP computers as being racist. For the holidays, the man purchased an HP MediaSmart computer, and as evident from the video, the webcam on it seems to be calibrated to track white skin tones, but not black ones. The man welcomes a response from HP, but so far, no clear cut explanations have been given.

Nazgulnarsil, a user on Hacker News, made an interesting observation. "If anyone has been following natal development....apparently the infrared cameras that natal uses for depth information has trouble with darker skin." Perhaps this could be part of the problem. This poses the question as to whether the issue lies in the hardware itself, or if a simple software fix can rectify the problem. It could also be related to darker colors reflecting less light, thereby making it difficult for the camera to follow the man's face. It would be interesting to see how a different brand's face tracking webcam would react to a similar situation.

Assuming the video is legit, it will be interesting to see how HP responds (or if they even do). Obviously there's no way to confirm this claim without trying the HP MediaSmart's webcam on your own; but the video seems pretty convincing, as it's confirmed to have been uploaded via a MediaSmart laptop.

See it for yourself...

UPDATE: An official HP representative has made a post on their blog regarding the video above:

"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. That's why when issues surface, we take them seriously and work hard to understand the root causes...

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. While we work on this, take a look here for more information on the impact of lighting on facial tracking software, and how to optimize your webcam experience: http://bit.ly/7HsZHD"

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66 Comments

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It's about time more cctv followed around Caucasians.

The hood are sick n tired of being stalked just because dhem is a diffrent colour.

Crazy how some people have to be doing back flips when theyre on the computer, usually the default view angle of most web cams are suitable, i know some have zoom and they work great, but I sure wouldnt need a camera following me, although i do admit the logitech orbit webcam is pretty fun to play with!!! Funny video when I watched it got a good laugh.

Take any ethnically diverse photo, change the hue to 100%, and you will see everyone are the same skin colour, so it's easy to track. I call BS, probably differences in lighting or reflection. Every heard of people being different? it's not racist that people are different.

eVERY oNE IN THIS THREAD is racist for thinking the word racist.


You tracking me? HP you tracking me now? I'm not black, start tracking me.....racist...POS

I say this is completley fake, or soemthing they did with th software is making it like that, but I find the way the camera moves around "Whitey" is not from a webcam.

doesnt it track via eyes and nostils? (obviously the nostils are dark on caucasians, the contrast is noticable)

so if youve had a really bad coke habit and your nostrils have burned into one it wouldnt track you? OMG HP are anti drugs!

I think we're seriously jumping to conclusions here. It probably has nothing to do with race. Maybe the computer is just a lesbian, and so naturally gravitates toward Wanda. Or perhaps Desi called it a piece of sh__ earlier and now it's ignoring him.

I saw it this morning on a Spanish site and I could tell ya man, this man is Hilarious.

I love this video.

I like the way hi manage the issue, like a joke. To me that's important

I am probablly going to make myself look like an idiot, but one question. Why everything reversed? Look at the nametags they are backwards. Is this normal, or do you think that there was a mirror involved?

the tracking algorithm prob doesnt detect enough contrast to recognize the eyes/nose/lips of the black dude.
the tech ppl prob knew the problem and said f* it, we'll let marketing worry about that, lol

This happened on the show Better off Ted, where the new security system did not recognize black people and they had to have white people assigned to them to have them to work.

:laugh:

Memnochxx said,
Where's the irony?


Asian people are "yellow", based on the generalizations society makes. But we don't know if it detects Asians or not...I bet it would do fine, they're not really yellow...

protocol7 said,
Ironic seeing as the webcams were probably made by yellow people.

I think life can do without those kinds of jokes.

Yeah HP computers are racist.... You gotta be kidding me! What a piece of trash for even saying that.
Even if this video is real (I have a feeling it's not), there are many many other factors that his uneducated mind should have considered before saying something as brainless as that. Why is there still racism in this world??? Because of people like him!!

dude, he meant the remark as a joke...obviously it went over your head. but automatically assuming he's got an "uneducated mind", you're not really helping the stereotype yourself.

Escalade_GT said,
Yeah HP computers are racist.... You gotta be kidding me! What a piece of trash for even saying that.
Even if this video is real (I have a feeling it's not), there are many many other factors that his uneducated mind should have considered before saying something as brainless as that. Why is there still racism in this world??? Because of people like him!!


Wow, someone missed the joke.

Escalade_GT said,
Yeah HP computers are racist.... You gotta be kidding me! What a piece of trash for even saying that.
Even if this video is real (I have a feeling it's not), there are many many other factors that his uneducated mind should have considered before saying something as brainless as that. Why is there still racism in this world??? Because of people like him!!

Sounds to me like YOU'RE the one who's racist. Clearly he said that as a joke. The laughing of his co-worker, the smirk on his face and other factors CLEARLY illustrate that. Jumping on the "uneducated mind" rhetoric is just low... Why is he uneducated? Because he's black? You're own bigotry is shining through and disgusts me.

it was clearly a joke dude!

i think they'd just need to fine-tune the facial recognition algorith, and release some sort of "firmware" to improve detection from darker skinned people (like myself) and that should take care of it.

MytMowse said,
You don't know the man well enough to even call him a racist.

Why are so many people missing jokes. Do you need joke tags?

bb10 said,
Why are so many people missing jokes. Do you need joke tags?

Because people would rather flip out and go super saiyan than actually think logically for a second.

Escalade_GT said,
Yeah HP computers are racist.... You gotta be kidding me! What a piece of trash for even saying that.
Even if this video is real (I have a feeling it's not), there are many many other factors that his uneducated mind should have considered before saying something as brainless as that. Why is there still racism in this world??? Because of people like him!!

Wow, you've got some serious anger problems if a joke can make you so angry.

Escalade_GT said,
Yeah HP computers are racist.... You gotta be kidding me! What a piece of trash for even saying that.
Even if this video is real (I have a feeling it's not), there are many many other factors that his uneducated mind should have considered before saying something as brainless as that. Why is there still racism in this world??? Because of people like him!!

Did we watch the same video?
And why did you assume he was stupider than you?

dotf said,
Reminds me of an episode of "Better off Ted"
Someone from HP needs to watch that show to figure out how to provide damage control.

Danger being, that the only PR campaign available is to hire everyone to follow everyone.

Doli said,
Haha, I guess HP did not do enough testing on the webcam.


HP doesn't actually make the camera or driver, it from a third party

nekrosoft13 said,
HP doesn't actually make the camera or driver, it from a third party

HP puts everything together they should do some testing to see if their finished product works well.

big deal, so the camera needs "light" for the tracking to work.

I'll bet it doesn't track in the dark either!

and so much for a "state of the art" camera - everything is also mirror image.

dvb2000 said,
and so much for a "state of the art" camera - everything is also mirror image.

I seriously doubt that isn't an option.

There is good reason for mirror imaging a webcam image, in some situations - like when viewing yourself. Either it's like a mirror, or not.