Friday, November 5, 2010

Good News: The Kinect is Not Racist

Kinect, via Ubergizmo
Yesterday Microsoft's Kinect, a new peripheral that allows you to control the interfaces and games using only your body, and I just had to have it!  For fear being unable to get a Kinect due to it selling out, I decided to pick one up from Target during my lunch break.  Luckily Target had about 20 on the shelf and I couldn't wait to get home to play it.  In order to get my fix in before I got home and setup my Kinect I figured I'd watch a few reviews.

However, a review by GameSpot review is the one that has been causing all of the controversy: 

[Our] testing suggests facial recognition features of Microsoft's motion-sensing camera system might not work properly for some gamers... In testing the Kinect, two dark-skinned GameSpot employees had problems getting the system's facial recognition features to work. 

This testing caused some people to perceive the Kinect as racist.  I'm not gonna lie though, a similar thought had crossed my mind because it failed to identify my face during the facial recognition portion of the calibration (the facial recognition allows the Kinect to scan your face and automatically log you in).  I went through the sequence three times and each time I received an error telling me to make sure I was facing the camera.  I even put on a brighter shirt in hopes that the difference in contrast would help.  NOPE!  After that I did some searching online and came across some information from Consumer reports.

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.
Yup, that was my issue!  I didn't have enough light in the front of the room.  It was hard to figure out what the problem was because Kinect was able to recognize every single one of my movements.  While video game console peripherals do see color, it's good to know that they don't discriminate.  
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