HP: our webcams aren't racist

HP is responding to claims that the facial-tracking technology used by its Webcams is somehow racist

HP is responding to claims that the facial-tracking technology used by its webcams is somehow racist.

A YouTube video uploaded earlier this month showed a Webcam, identified as being an HP model, failing to follow a face when the person on-screen was black. When a white woman stepped in front of the same camera, the facial-tracking system appeared to begin working properly.

"I think my blackness is interfering with the computer's ability to follow me," the man in the video said. "I'm going on record and I'm saying it: Hewlett-Packard computers are racist."

HP acknowledged the problem in a blog posted to its TheNextBench.com site on Sunday. Tony Welch, the lead social media strategist for HP's Personal Systems Group, said the company is currently investigating the issue to figure out what's going on.

"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," Welch explains. "We believe that the camera might have difficulty 'seeing' contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting."

Welch suggested users visit HP's Webcam optimization center while the company seeks a full solution.

Those Photoshop-happy guys from Microsoft, meanwhile, must be breathing a sigh of relief.

JR Raphael is co-founder of eSarcasm, an equal opportunity provider of geek humor. You can keep up with him on Twitter: @jr_raphael.

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JR Raphael

PC World (US online)
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