Friday, November 05, 2010

Consumer Reports: The Kinect is Not "Racist"

So, GameSpot made some claims that Microsoft's Kinect has problems recognizing "dark skinned GameSpot employees" and that Kinect has no problem with light skinned people for the log-in aspect of the system.  By the end of their article they didn't outright say it, but it was heavily implied that the Kinect will not work with blacks at all for log-in.  This has been since misconstrued across the web as the Kinect being "racist" or proof against Microsoft that they somehow made another defective product.

Well, strangely enough, Consumer Reports of all places saw something wrong with GameSpot's story and decided to retest the Kinect using light and dark skinned people.  Their findings, turn on a light:

Here's what we found: The log-in problem is related to low-level lighting and not directly to players' skin color. Like the HP webcam, the Kinect camera needs enough light and contrast to determine features in a person's face before it can perform software recognition and log someone into the game console automatically.
Essentially, the Kinect recognized both players at light levels typically used in living rooms at night and failed to recognize both players when the lights were turned down lower. So far, we did not experience any instance where one player was recognized and the other wasn't under the same lighting conditions. 
So folks there you have it: it's just a matter of lighting, not skin tone.  If you want, I'd suggest reading through the Consumer Reports article or you can watch their video below.  Also let us know what you think or experience with the Kinect yourself in the comments section, we'd love to hear from you.  I myself will be putting the Kinect and 6 of it's games through the wringer next week and will report back to you all my findings.  Take Care & Have Fun, Lord Moon.


  1. This seriously amuses me. The player recognition on the Kinect is actually pretty dang sensitive, and it's something that my household has greatly enjoyed playing with. We experimented a lot with having people the same height, size, gender, color, etc. hop in and out of the screen to see how it matched people. It always did very well. Our living room has pretty low lights too, so I'm amused that Gamespot employees couldn't figure this out/came to that conclusion.

  2. I think it's an issue of perception. When you're consistently told that things aren't made for you or you're not supposed to like/use/have things - you begin to believe said things automatically versus giving it the benefit of the doubt. It's one of the worst things about internalized, systemic racism and prejudice.

    That said, I think people use the word "racism" when they really mean something else. And sometimes people are far too quick to dismiss actual racism because they lack the frame of reference to recognize it.