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"