Follow you, follow me: Can a computer be racist?

| 24 Comments

122309hp.jpg

That's the question now facing Hewlett-Packard in the wake of a viral video made by two co-workers. Check this out before finishing your Christmas shopping ...

Wanda Zamen and Desi Cryer realized, as they were experimenting with HP's new motion-tracking Web cam, that the device would perform properly and automatically follow the white face of Zamen -- but does not function and follow the black face of Cryer. They made a video demonstrating the malfunction and posted it to YouTube, where it's been viewed 750,000 times and spawned a flurry of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere online.

"I think my blackness is interfering with the computer's ability to follow me," Cryer says on the video, before semi-jokingly concluding: "I'm going on record, and I'm saying it: Hewlett-Packard computers are racist."

Here's the video:

Cryer says he welcomes response as to why the camera does not work for him. HP has responded: "HP acknowledged in a statement e-mailed to CNN that the cameras may have issues with contrast recognition in certain lighting situations. The webcams, built into HP's new computers, are supposed to keep people's faces and bodies in proportion and centered on the screen as they move."

HP also posted to its tech issues blog: "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."

Consumer Reports to the rescue! Sort of. The product watchdogs tried out the camera themselves on their own blog and discovered that it really is a lighting issue. When a black person is backlit, the camera doesn't follow him. When a black person is light from the front, it seems to work.

Here's their video:

Then again, I don't know about you, but my home computer work space provides no lighting in front, and I'm guessing a possible majority of others out there (of any skin color) might be in the same predicament. So in order to use an HP camera, especially if you're black, you'll need a lamp in order to fight seasonal affective disorder and poorly engineered computer hardware at the same time!

Zamen and Cryer, of course, are a little taken aback by the attention their video has received.

"We did it for laughs," Zamen tells CNN, "but if the video does make HP put out a better product, then great."

24 Comments

Actually, lots of things "don't pick up negroes."
I wonder if chronic violence plays a role?

This type of amateur research HAS to stop----get over yourselves-- Black Desi and White Wanda----not every thing/ not every topic has racist connotations................this is pathetic.

Are you going to fix it then???????????????

It is unable to track gays in closet lighting as well.

Yet another ignorant soul, face it...

Its a new dawn, a new day

Honest mistake. Stop with the race comments. Negros are not the only one that does violence but we are the ones that are caught.

No its chronic ignorance that keeps us from being looked at with any type of respect. Your an idoit and a coward just like all racists.

Put it to you this way, if the camera works well with the "negros" , there's still calling it racist because the camera moves cause his black. The "negros" will complain that the camera is a tracking device to catch thieves.

Only takes a minute for another A-hole to surface.

Not all blacks are Negroes,not all Negroes are black! I have no idea what that means,but it sounds very profound!

I love black people!! I watch them all as they walk by by window. I'm a 180 from HP

Relax people. I thought the video was pretty funny, and Desi was clearly light-hearted about it. I can't believe some of these comments. It's gonna be o.k everybody, Merry Christmas.

The sad thing is that if a black person were to try to buy one of these laptops in any store, the face tracking would be relentless.

The piece about HP's computer may seem as though, yet again, black people are overreacting. But it's not about racism. It's about the mere fact that brown people are invisible to white people. I remember when worked at world leading microphone manufacturer here in Evanston. Back in the early '90s, the company unveiled an in-ear monitor call the E1. The E1 had one version that was "fleshed colored". Unfortunately, the marketing people defined flesh colored as "pink in color" and the manufacturing people made the E1, well, pink in color. I remember laughing and telling anyone who listened that there are other hues of flesh that just may be interested using AND buying our product. A manufacturer's distributor from the South looked at me and said, "Doesn't the company realize that black people sing and perform, and they would like to have an ear piece that looks like their flesh? He and I just shook our heads. It took that company a year and to come up with different hues for the E1. The HP situation is the same. Those who designed the product went on a marketing assumption that only white consumers will purchase the product. Sadly, many manufacturers and companies still have a long way to go to finally realize that yes, this is a national and global economy. Consumers come in all shapes, sizes....and color

How is something "neutral" like technology racist?

Just change the settings. How hard is it?

Just another thing for blacks to dwell on. How about the fact that, "THAT" president won the nobel peace prize when he never even deserved being nominated, Lets worry about black kids beating people with sticks, because God knows if the situation was flipped and the camera only reacted to african americans, it would be "racist" cause "they jus tryna catch blacks stealin or jus focusing on them". But since black people only focus on negativity well hear about this til HP is forced to pay reparations. Just remember when people have accidents like this remember theres a man in the white house because a bunch of racists came out to vote, just think if black people cared about everything in life and not just the color of the man in office, like their kids for instance maybe the only 5 times I got robbed in my life it wouldnt have been black males.

IT'S STILL GOOD TO KNOW THAT RACISM STILL EXIST, ITS JEALOUSY IN ITS PUREST FORM. :-)

* BUT WHY SHOULD AFRICAN-AMERICAN CONSUMERS HAVE TO GO THROUGH SO MUCH TROUBLE TO US A BASIC FUNCTION ON THIS PARTICULAR PERSONAL COMPUTER?? I GUESS WE WERE NOT CONSIDERED A VALUABLE ASPECT IN THE TESTING OF THE TECHNOLOGY.
BUT GUESS WHAT, I WON'T BUY THAT SHIT ANYWAYS, I'D RATHER PAY A CRACK HEAD FROM THE HOOD $50 TO STEAL IT FROM THE WHITE NEIGHBORHOOD. LOL JUST A LITTLE SALT ON THE RACIST WOUND. ;-)

Ok, so then, the camera should be arrested and put in jail.

Just sayin'.

Well there could be a couple of ways to look at this.

1) The camera isn't racist. I think it would actually be more racist if it ONLY followed the black man around the store.

2) It's not the camera's fault. That's just how it was raised.

3) Maybe the camera won't pick up black people because it's the love child of a cab driver or the director of Friends.

4) He was looking at the wrong model of camera. He wanted a camera that had facial recognition software, not bad credit recognition software.

5) The camera is a Tea Bagger.

Some of these comments are outrageous! People, wake up and smell the coffee. Why all the racist comments. If I were to say that all white men are pedophiles (which most are) you wouldn't appreciate that comment.

Negros as stated herein are not all thieves and gang bangers who are violent prone.

The man in the video was showing that the technology needs work by way of joking.

Again, wake up!!!!!

Not sure about this computer, but what seems racist is this story getting press, but no coverage of the white kid in NY getting savagely beaten by 11 black apes. that is what's racist

maybe not so much Racist but somebody dropped the ball big time , how could you mass produce without considering testing the lighting conditions on the feature. This could be a major
marketing problem they didnt consider all the variations.

it's not a point of "getting over" themselves...they recognized a flaw that wasn't addressed prior and made light of it...given african americans track record in society its not surprising, sue.

To Ron...I think the biggest thief to date was 'ol Bernie Madoff and he doesn't have tanning issues you feel me...lol.

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  • Anonymous: it's not a point of "getting over" themselves...they recognized a read more
  • biggman63: maybe not so much Racist but somebody dropped the ball read more
  • dswizz: Not sure about this computer, but what seems racist is read more
  • Danny: Some of these comments are outrageous! People, wake up and read more
  • Wendell: Well there could be a couple of ways to look read more
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  • BLACK-IS-BEAUTIFUL: IT'S STILL GOOD TO KNOW THAT RACISM STILL EXIST, ITS read more
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  • Norman Rogers: How is something "neutral" like technology racist? Just change the read more

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    This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on December 23, 2009 10:19 AM.

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