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Saturday, January 2, 2010

HP Face Tracking Software Racist?

This is the latest in the Saturday Night Card Game series on the use of the race card for political gain:

Tonight a slight twist on the use of the race card.

Two people, one white and one black, ran a test of HP face tracking software, and claimed that the software tracked the white person but not the black person, leading to this accusation:
I think my blackness is interfering with the computer's ability to, to follow me... I'm going on record and I'm saying it: Hewlett Packard computers are racist.
They then posted the video on YouTube:

In a rational world, this claim of racism would be dismissed as crazed and ignored. At most there might be a technical issue about the ability of the software to track darker skin features in poor lighting conditions, but to make the accusation of "racism" was pure posturing.

But even a frivolous accusation of racism cannot be ignored.

As of today, the video has received over 1.7 million views, and almost 9,000 comments at YouTube.

So HP responded to this frivolity with the utmost seriousness and political correctness (underscoring in original, bolding by me):
It’s no secret that I feel privileged to work with one of the largest and most innovative teams in the technology industry. On any given day, I might collaborate with HP employees in regions ranging from Japan to India and Latin America to Europe.

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

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

We are working with our partners to learn more. 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. We believe that the camera might have difficulty “seeing” contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting. While we work on this, take a look here for more information on the impact of lighting on facial tracking software, and how to optimize your webcam experience: http://bit.ly/7HsZHD.
HP then posted a link to a "media statement" by the two aspiring videographers:

We decided to use the webcam to film this issue. We thought the video was funny and decided to post it on You Tube. It was our intention to provide a good natured chuckle to our fellow man, and honestly we did not imagine that so many people would watch and react to the video.

We do not really think that a machine can be racist, or that HP is purposely creating software that excludes people of color. We think it is just a glitch.

Hp has been in contact with us about this matter, at this time that is all we are at liberty to say.

"Not at libery to say" huh? I wonder what that means.

This ridiculous incident shows the power of false accusations of racism, and why the race card is such an effective political tool.

The mightiest corporation cowers in fear that a preposterously false accusation may gain traction on the internet, while the two videographers laugh (all the way to the bank?).

Related Posts:
Saturday Night Card Game
Calling For Sparkman Apologies
Harry Reid Plays Every "ism" Card

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