Microsoft Kinect Is Not Racist. Duh.

Wendy Sheehan Donnell, PC Magazine, November 5, 2010

One of the more ridiculous stories surrounding Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 launch yesterday asserted that because the system’s sensor had some trouble recognizing two dark-skinned users that it was ‘racist.’

It all started with GameSpot reporting that while testing the Kinect, two of its dark-skinned employees had problems with the system’s facial recognition. According to the site:

“The system recognized one employee inconsistently, while it was never able to properly identify the other despite repeated calibration attempts. However, Kinect had no problems identifying a third dark-skinned GameSpot employee, recognizing his face after a single calibration. Lighter-skinned employees were also consistently picked up on the first try.”

Racism? Doesn’t exactly sound like it.

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The PC World story ran with a photo of several African American children holding Kinect boxes with a caption that read: “Will all these kids be able to use the facial recognition features of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect accessory?”

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Consumer Reports followed up debunking the racism claims with a blog post and video asserting that the problem wasn’t with users skin color, but with darker lighting conditions.

Microsoft agreed. “Kinect works with people of all skin tones. And just like a camera, optimal lighting is best. Anyone experiencing issues with facial recognition should adjust their lighting settings, as instructed in the Kinect Tuner,” the company said.

Here at PCMag we can corroborate: Our African-American reviewer gave the Kinect a 4-out-of-5-star review and an Editors’ Choice award. In the tests for our Microsoft Kinect review, we had no facial-recognition problems. In fact, the system’s impeccable recognition and motion-control abilities were a major contributor to our positive review.

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