No, The Kinect Is Not Racist

Those rumors that the Microsoft Kinect has trouble with certain skin tones? No way, says Consumer Reports. Just stop playing in that dark basement rec room, and all will be well.


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  1. MaliBoo Radley says:

    Did anyone honestly think a machine could be racist? Silly silly …

    • cecilsaxon says:

      Biased skin tone differentiating is the term we use now… I think. Love how they never said it had problems with black folks, but rather kept saying it had problems with different “skin tone” instead.

    • cecilsaxon says:

      Biased skin tone differentiating is the term we use now… I think. Love how they never said it had problems with black folks, but rather kept saying it had problems with different “skin tones” instead. While the entire time it had a white and a black guy hopping around in the background.

    • ShinGetterPoPo says:

      I could see how a computer could have difficulty with sensing reflectivity off of people with darker skin tones. It’s not an impossible fix, but depending on how good the camera they had it could have been a difficult one.

    • Binja-man says:

      Machines may not be racist, but I’m pretty sure my toaster is an anti-semite.

    • SpamDel says:

      You clearly have never seen that episode of Better off Ted.

    • Tim says:

      No, but if you build something meant to recognize skin tone and you forget to make sure it recognizes all skin tones, including that of black people, it’s a bit of a problem.

      Not saying that happened here though. Looks like it actually works just fine.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      Sadly, I’m sure many people do honestly believe that. Everybody’s crying racism nowadays, the very science itself of darker colors being harder to see in low light is “racist” to come people. Not *intelligent* people, mind you, just the ones who get off on perceiving slights & carrying chips.

    • common_sense84 says:

      It happened with some shipping advertisement app that had a flash app that would use your webcam to identify you.

      But that was with a normal webcam. The kinnect uses IR and under IR skin colors all look the same. So it is impossible for the kinnect to have issues with skin tones.

  2. Big Mama Pain says:

    Pretend outrage at Microsoft, but Mac gets a pass on having their IPhones made by people who live as indentured slaves. Sweet.

    • Groanan says:

      Those Foxcon pictures look better than many Army barracks housing government employees in America right now today.

      Suicide nets are a bit depressing, but it is working, and their suicide rate is lower than ours here in America.

      • Rena says:

        Is that because people are less suicidal or because the nets are preventing them from offing themselves?

        Maybe they shoulda just called them safety nets…

        • Groanan says:

          Before they installed the nets, per the amount of people they had at the factory, the amount of suicides were not that great – they were newsworthy only because the iPhone was a hot issue at the time.

          Personally, instead of “safety nets” or “employee wellness and retention systems” I’d rather see them make all the dorms into pyramids.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      Yep, because working for a wage of your own free will is indentured slavery.

      • jason in boston says:

        Well said.

      • kujospam says:

        But are you truely free from “work” even in America? Nope. You have to work. There is no where in America you can live off the land. So you are a slave.

        • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

          Untrue. You certainly CAN live off the land, if you have the land to live off. You can grow your own crops, raise your own animals, and cut your own lumber for construction just fine. You can pay for anything else you need, such as tools, with surplus crops and livestock. You just won’t live a modern urban lifestyle, with luxuries like air conditioning, television, or possibly indoor plumbing or electricity, most likely.

          If you settle for simpler accomodations like lean-tos instead of a proper “house” you can do it all without even the modern tools.

          • Megalomania says:

            …and then you get to pay property taxes

          • Groanan says:

            In California you cannot slaughter your own animals, or raise animals in the first place unless your lot of property is zoned for it.

            On top of that, if you do not pay your yearly property tax, even though you own the property, the State will take your property from you to pay the tax.

            The only way you can avoid making money and having land is if you already have boatloads of money, or your house keeps going up in value and you somehow continue to take out loans borrowing against your house so as to make yearly tax payments.

            • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

              You’re not making it impossible. Just adding obstacles. Everything you noted can be handled simply by having your land declared appropriately in order to be allowed to do your own butchering and by producing enough excess to pay your taxes through selling it. Just because you pull in some money to handle such things does not mean you aren’t living off the land itself.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Someone’s never been to college. Well, a US college.

    • Phineas says:

      The Xbox 360 is made at Foxconn as well.

  3. aybara says:

    The company’s position is that it’s actually the opposite of racist, because it’s not targeting black people. It’s just ignoring them. They insist the worst people can call it is “indifferent.”
    – Veronica Palmer, Veridian Dynamics

  4. stephent says:

    I do film and video work for a living and it is just an accepted fact that if you are trying to light someone with a darker skin tone you have to hit them with more light than someone with lighter skin. Is that racist? No it is a fact. A device like Kinect works on many of the same principles if it is trying to pick up your movements and you don’t stand out from the background because you are wearing dark cloths, have dark skin tones, or there is not enough light it won’t work. Unless the programed it to not work as well if it recognizes the person has darker skin then it isn’t racist. But yea if it is that slow of a news cycle I will pretend to be outraged.

  5. shufflemoomin says:

    But it uses Infrared light. What difference does the ambient light in the room make?

    • Sandstar says:

      It’s hard to recognize facial features when you’re looking at it in infrared.

    • dryfire says:

      If I understood the press release stuff it uses the near infrared light to gauge distance.

      The way any material absorbs, emits, reflects and transmits radiation (be it light, infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, etc…) is wavelength dependent. The emissivity of darker skin probably differs in the near infrared spectrum as well.

      • Limewater says:

        Actually, if well-illuminated, NIR light eliminates a lot of the differences in skin tone. If I had to guess, I’d say that this was probably part of their solution to the “racist kinect” problem reported earlier.

    • majortom1981 says:

      If you use regular light bulbs they also produce heat. so you turn on lights with regular bulbs it cab cause some problems. The wii had the same problem since it uses ir leds for the pointer.

    • Sepp_TB says:

      You’ll notice three small circles on the front a kinect. The infrared camera, a normal RGB camera, and an infrared projector.
      It uses infrared for the distance and movement stuff. It ALSO has a feature where it can tell who just walked in front of the camera and automatically load your profile and avatar. That uses the plain old visible light RGB camera and facial recognition. It requires good lightning, and even says so on screen.

  6. Yo Howdy says:

    Let’s ask Hoops and Yoyo what they think.

  7. NeverLetMeDown says:

    “Different skin tones”??? Really? Were there claims that the Kinect couldn’t recognize albinos? Why not just say “there’s a rumor that the Kinect can’t recognize black people”?

    • I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

      Because some black people are really light-skinned.

      FYI, they weren’t rumors. The website that reported this (and the video that went with it) has since been taken down the article, but a (black) game tester guy tried it out and it wouldn’t work for him. It worked fine for his white partner.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        So the Kinect is both racist and homophobic? Or does it ignore straight black people as well?

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Or maybe “partner” means “gaming partner” and not “life partner.” Or maybe they were cops. I think it’s really weird that people hear or read “partner” and immediately jump to sexual orientation.

          • I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

            That, or we both lack a sense of humor (for gay jokes, at least).

  8. Pelonis says:

    God….. The fact that someone actually has to say that…..

  9. jenjenjen says:

    Ah, but maybe darker-skinned people can play it in full sun. I read one reviewer (presumably white) describe that when he played it with sun shining in his room, he disappeared. Does Microsoft think white people don’t like sunshine? They’ve been in the Pacific Northwest too long.

  10. The_IT_Crone says:

    When I worked in photo processing it was a nightmare trying to get dark skintones correct, especially if there was a light skinned and dark skinner person in the same photo and they didn’t use a flash.

    It’s not racist, it’s science. Dark colors absorb light, light colors reflect. This is why you feel hotter if you wear black shirts on a sunny day, and why baseball players put black marks under their eyes.

    Sigh. I guess light is just racist.

  11. dg says:

    It’s a first generation product – there’s bugs and kinks to work out that didn’t show up during alpha, and beta testing.

    It depends on light – by definition, it’s going to have trouble seeing things that aren’t different enough from the surrounding area. So if some dark-skinned person is wearing a dark shirt and pants, and standing in front of a dark wall in a dark room, then ummm, WTF do u think will happen?

    Do cameras work so well under such conditions? No. So you have secondary lighting sources – such as a flash, or a strobe, or a lamp, etc… The second gen will be better, software will be improved…

    Nothing to see here sheeple… move along… move along…

    • common_sense84 says:

      The limitations only effect the camera that uses normal light. The IR based camera is not effected by skin tones because all skin looks the same under IR.

      There is also no fix for a lack of light. Turn your lights on when you want the thing to recognize your face. It is that simple.

    • common_sense84 says:

      The IR camera on it does not have these problems anyways. Under IR light, all skin looks the same color.

      The issues with cameras not detecting black people are when using normal visible light cameras.

  12. kamiikoneko says:

    Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa……so wait hold on wait a second. The Kinect requires one to exhibit common sense and a basic understanding of how light works? Oh Microsoft, always overestimating the intellect of the average consumer.

  13. georgi55 says:

    It may not be racist but look what Phil pulled. If he isn’t busy writing crappy articles without fact and grammar checking, he is busy breaking his own TV it seems.

  14. Jimmy60 says:

    My gaming system is in my theater room. 106″ screen and an HD projector. Projector … no turning on lights or the screen washes out. So this Kinect setup just disqualified itself from being useful to me.

    The Wii works great in my theater room. It was easy to extend the light bar with Cat5 as it just supplies power for the leds. I’m not sure about how easy it would be to wire in the systems from Sony or Microsoft because the wires need to be extended over 20′ from the screen to the equipment rack. That’s a stretch for USB devices.

  15. jpdanzig says:

    When I hear a story like this, I wonder if the manufacturer remembered to include folks of different colors when they beta tested a product. THAT failing might support a charge of racism, of omission if not commission…

  16. mikeP says:

    Right, they should figure out how to defy the laws of physics to avoid the perception of being racists.

    Hey, how about they just say, “Wear a white t-shirt or other light colored apparel so the sensor can more accurately measure the signals”.

  17. gurupitka says:

    Her nose is teeny.