Hewlett-Packard is investigating the facial recognition software used with some of its PCs after a YouTube video surfaces that seems to show the software failing to recognize African-Americans. In the video, the facial-tracking software on an HP MediaSmart PC and camera respond to a white woman but fail to work properly for her black co-worker. HP is looking into what it calls root causes.
is looking into the facial recognition technology used in some of its PCs after
a YouTube video surfaced that seems to show the software and camera failing to
recognize an African-American man.
The YouTube video of
the facial recognition failure,
which runs about 2 minutes, 16 seconds, was
originally posted on the video-sharing Website Dec. 10. On Dec. 21, HP posted a
blog response to the video, which assures customers that it is looking into the
question of why the software seems to recognize the white woman featured in the
video but not her black co-worker.
"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," said an HP
blog post by Tony "Frosty" Welch,
the lead social media strategist
for HP's Personal Systems Group. "That's why when issues surface, we take
them seriously and work hard to understand the root causes."
The video shows two people, Desi, who is black, and Wanda, who is white,
looking into a camera used with an HP
The facial recognition software is supposed to make the
camera follow whoever is in front of the computer.
Although the footage on the HP PC does not move when Desi is in front of the
camera, it does move when Wanda enters the frame. When Desi re-enters the
picture, the software and camera appear to stop. The motion restarts when Wanda
comes back into the frame.
"I'm going on record and I'm saying it: Hewlett-Packard computers are
racist," Desi said in the YouTube video, although he appears to be joking
and smiling through most of the impromptu demonstration.
"The worst part is I bought one for Christmas," he said, referring
to the HP MediaSmart computer.
It's not clear from the video how many times the two tried to use the facial
recognition software or whether it was simply one malfunctioning computer or a
serious problem. However, the video caused enough of a stir for HP to make a
blog post about the incident, stating that the company has started looking into
whether there is a problem with the software.
"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 wrote in the blog post. "We believe that the camera
might have difficulty 'seeing' contrast in conditions where there is
insufficient foreground lighting."