HP Responds To Claim That Face-Tracking Software Is Racist

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In the YouTube video, two co-workers " one black and one white " were using the face-tracking webcam on an HP MediaSmart computer. The face-tracking software is supposed to follow the users' faces as they move within the frame. The video shows that the software does not follow one user, a black man, but when that man's white co-worker enters the frame, the software immediately follows her.

In the video, the man, who identifies himself as Desi says: "I'm going on record and I'm saying it. Hewlett-Packard computers are racist."

In a blog post responding to the claim that its computers and its face-tracking software are racist, HP thanked Desi for calling the incident to its attention. HP also linked to Desi's video.

"Some of you may have seen or heard of a YouTube video in which the facial-tracking software didn't work for a customer," HP wrote. "We thank Desi, and the people who have seen and commented on his video, for bringing this subject to our attention."

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HP said it will look into the problem.

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

HP added that it is working with partners to learn more about what could have caused the problem that made the user perceive that its face-tracking software is racist. HP added that the webcam on the HP MediaSmart computer may have had trouble recognizing Desi's facial features due to several factors including contrast or lighting.

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