Hewlett-Packard is scrambling to respond to an issue brought up by a Dec. 10 YouTube video demonstrating that the facial tracking software used in some of its laptops doesn't recognize black people.
HP responded to the issue yesterday in its blog, and it's starting to go viral today.
In the light-hearted but pointed video, black "Desi" and white "Wanda" show how the software tracks Wanda but not Desi, even though they're in the same room, at the same angle, with the same lighting. The tracking works when Wanda enters the frame, and stops working when Desi enters.
A mortified HP blamed the problem on insufficient contrast between the eyes and the skin of the upper cheek and nose. "We believe that the camera might have difficulty “seeing” contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting," HP said, referring people to information about optimum lighting for facial-tracking software.
Meanwhile, the company is pledging to work on the problem with its partners.
Did they try any other people with unique features based on ethnic backgrounds? If what HP says is true then I would imagine there would be difficulties with people from around the Pacific Rim and Asia as well. I am not saying who is right or wrong here but it is amazing how one little video on youtube can be used to put a label on a corporation or group with no other imperical evidence presented.
Perhaps HP and other technology companies need to pay heed to what pharmaceutical companies have to do while performing necessary clinical trial runs - pharma companies have to test the product with different groups including control to make sure the drug works. There are usually 3 rounds before the drug gets FDA approval and many times the drug might demonstrate protective or damaging effects on certain racial segments. The lesson here is that technology companies like HP should test its products with different subjects and debugging it before it officially releases the product - unless the product is in beta stage.