Kinect has problems recognizing dark-skinned users?

[UPDATE] GameSpot testing suggests facial recognition features of motion-sensing camera system might not work properly for some gamers; Microsoft says lighting levels to blame.

Source: In testing the Kinect, two dark-skinned GameSpot employees had problems getting the system's facial recognition features to work.

What we heard: Part of Microsoft's $500 million marketing push for Kinect includes positioning it as an accessible entertainment device for all audiences. However, it may be more accessible to some than others.

While testing out the Kinect, two dark-skinned GameSpot employees experienced problems with the system's facial recognition abilities. 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.

Not all games make much use of Kinect's facial recognition features.

It's important to note that the problems were only experienced with the system's facial recognition feature and don't prevent users from playing Kinect games. Skeletal tracking, a primary means of controlling games with Kinect, appeared to work the same for all GameSpot employees.

The system's inability to recognize a user only means that he or she would need to sign in manually and some games' features may not work properly as a result. For example, when a second player joins in to Kinect Adventures during the title's drop-in, drop-out multiplayer, the system can't bring up that player's proper in-game avatar automatically if it can't identify the new user first.

If Kinect does have some technical issues related to users' pigmentation, it wouldn't be a first for recognition technology. Last holiday season, users of Hewlett-Packard computers with built-in webcams reported problems with a face-tracking feature.

HP blamed the problem on the webcam's technology, "standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose." It said the system could have problems "seeing" that contrast if there is insufficient foreground lighting.

[UPDATE 11/4] GameSpot continued its testing of Kinect today with more users in different rooms and different clothing. At first, the two employees who originally would not be recognized by the camera were correctly identified on the first try. However, when one changed from a light blue shirt to a black shirt (but stayed in the same room with the same lighting), the camera again failed to recognize him after multiple calibration tests. It also failed to recognize another darker-skinned GameSpot employee after four calibration attempts.

Somehow, those issues may not completely undermine the camera's ability to use facial recognition features. Despite the Xbox 360's insistence that it could not recognize some of the GameSpot employees immediately after calibration, the system was able to recognize them and sign them in properly when they waved at the camera, regardless of their clothing.

The official story: "The goal of Kinect is to break down the barriers for everyone to play, and it will work with people of all shapes and ethnicities at launch."--A Microsoft representative, who added that Kinect owners having calibration or recognition problems can call 1-800-4-MY-XBOX.

[UPDATE 2]: After the additional testing, Microsoft provided further comment, saying, "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."

Bogus or not bogus: Not bogus that Kinect has problems identifying some users. Abstain on how widespread those problems are, or whether they're due to skin color at all. With the system launching tonight and Microsoft expecting to sell 5 million by year's end, it shouldn't be long before the scope and cause of such problems are identified.

Written By

Want the latest news about Kinect Adventures!?

Kinect Adventures!

Kinect Adventures!

Follow

Discussion

1117 comments
MrTakeda
MrTakeda

Its very simple, Kinect isn't all its cracked up to be...

killer690
killer690

Man, just when you think the world cannot get ant more racist hahahahahahaha

steve4123456789
steve4123456789

So this old conspiracy I heard online was true haha. And everyone said it was stupid.

saraithegeek
saraithegeek

I would have been the first one to call this bs but I tried Kinect for the first time today at a demo setup at Fred Meyers- I walked in front of it and it picked me up right away. My boyfriend, who is native american, could not get it to recognize him at all. A store employee even came over to see what we were doing and was equally baffled. It wasn't dark at all in there, it was a grocery store for goodness sakes! It's a little strange. I will definitely need to hear more on this before I buy one- I don't have any desire to buy something we can't both use equally.

Qiynah
Qiynah

I don't really get the tone of this post. What is Gamespot implying here? This post is one step away from a Kanye West-style "Microsoft doesn't care about black people!" The technical nature of the problem is obvious. Please don't make it out to be a conspiracy.

Jhedan
Jhedan

Ok for you people worried about this, adjust the lights in your room and that solves pretty much of the problems. Remember Kinect works with a camera as a sensor, a camera. That means its just like a video cam, if the room is too dark you won't see the faces of people (unless you've got night vision). Why is the USA always worried about racism?? Geez get over it!

piyush18
piyush18

Racist Microsoft... What ...are the black users supposed to powder there face for this.... really they should have checked it before...

CanesThing26
CanesThing26

POS peripheral. M$ blows can't make any good 1st party titles, all they can do is bleed halo and gears of war. looks like spending all the money in the beginning did you a lot of good for console exclusiveness . M$ as a company blows just like it 360 system blows

H0RSE
H0RSE

For all the, "lol, Microsoft is racist" remarks... In order for this statement to hold any merit, Microsoft would not only have to have known prior to release, that Kinect had potential facial recognition problems with dark-skinned people, but they also would have had to specifically left the "bug" in the hardware, with the intention of singling out those players. I highly doubt this is the case, and like they stated above, it comes down to simple hardware capabilities and/or shortcomings. What MS said makes perfect sense: "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." If you take a picture of a dark-skinned person in a poorly lit room with no flash on, you need to expect the picture is going to be poor. Even if it was a light skinned person, the picture wouldn't be all the great. This isn't a case of racism, just common sense.

godzillavskong
godzillavskong

Man. My fiancee is black and I am white, so does that mean we might not be able to play together? That would suck! My kids on the other hand are almost as pale as me, so they shouldn't have a problem.Well, I haven't picked my hardware up yet, so hopefully they'll have it patched before I get one.Oh, my dog is really black, so he is also not going to be able to participate!! lol

AdmirableAckbar
AdmirableAckbar

Behold! Proof that Microsoft is slowly becoming Skynet.

IceJester45
IceJester45

@leeko_link, You can play Kinect in the dark. The only drawback of playing in a dark room (that I've found, at least) is that the sensor will not automatically recognize you and sign you in. You can, however, sign in manually, and Kinect will still recognize your movements.

Azmod3aN
Azmod3aN

Bash, bash, bash, bash.... That's all i ever see. To everyone who has bashed the Kinect, have you even tried it? I mean, not the kiosks which have the outdated build of the dash and firmware for the kinect, but the actual retail hardware with the latest update? I can tell you (as well as other beta testers) that the kinect has vastly improved since the start. Granted, it's not perfect, but i see a pattern: Before release, people were bashing it because of the lag and they didn't think MS could pull it off. Then, the lag improved on release, and it did well, even had good reviews. So now, people who don't even own it start bashing it for something else... being a racist hardware.... Fault Finders... truly you can never please everyone.

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

Nice going Micrsosoft,creating racism for machines. Next on the list, Terminators.

leeko_link
leeko_link

A racist peripheral? Well that's a first lol... then again it could be the lighting that falter with the recognition. So does that mean gamers can't play this thing in the dark? Well that's not a good sign and I thought Game Boy was the only game system that can't be play in the dark.

damo320
damo320

@ noturfangirl You will find Consumer Reports are unbiased - have you even seen their report? I personally would put preference to a company who "specialise" in testing products over a game review site. You seem to have it in for this product. I personally don't intend to buy a Kinect (not my thing) but I can spot a game site deliberately using a sensationalist heading to attract attention to itself.

RaddaRaddaRadda
RaddaRaddaRadda

As if paying $150 wasn't enough, I would potentially need to alter my wardrobe and rearrange the lightning in the room where my 360 is to have an optimal Kinect experience? Pass.

Peglegswansoon
Peglegswansoon

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Peglegswansoon
Peglegswansoon

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

DennisWZH
DennisWZH

MS knows kinect is a huge leap, they know alot of people are on the fence about kinect because of it's price tag, and they're also confident kinect could deliver.. that's why they advertised it so much, to get as much people interested as possible.. and once those people try it out, and is satisfied.. they'll spread the word and attract even more customers..

DennisWZH
DennisWZH

or they want it to be successful

noturfangirl
noturfangirl

Any company that spends 1/2 a BILLON dollars to market a product, you know the product isn't worth it. Just like the movies, if you see it advertised so much until you have seen all the best parts in the trailers, something is wrong. M$ says in order to play kinect, you have to put alot of distance between you and the kinect. I would recommend real gamers to do just that.

Phoenix6359
Phoenix6359

:lol: This is still as funny as the first time I read about it:P.

karmasbeeoch
karmasbeeoch

LOL! Their are so many stipulations just to play with this over-priced web-cam. You have to have ALOT of space, you have to be Light skinned, you have to be rich, you have to wear light colored clothes, you gotta have a WELL lite room, and not alot of sunlight can be in the room, you have to re-arrange your room. LOL!!! all this just to play hand-me-down wii games?

Henninger
Henninger

I find this funny 4 some reason. Never heard of a racist gaming system till now. I know they didnt mean 4 this 2 happen i really find it funny.

DarthDestroyer
DarthDestroyer

I am dark skinned and I was a Beta tester for Kinect (and before any of you say no you weren't my gamertag is Darth Destroyer, so look at my games played on Xbox.com and you will see "???" for a game showing I was in the Beta...) anyway back to my point, I found I had the same problem when I wore dark clothing that was the same or darker in colour to my skin...When you wear the dark clothing the Sensor does have a problem picking out the points (Head, Arms, Hands, Legs, Knees and Feet) it needs to track you properly...also if you wear glasses (Like I do) it has a hard time with the facial recognition as the glare from you glasses interferes with the Sensor. A simple fix is to wear bright colour clothes if you are dark skinned and if you wear glasses ensure when scanning your face that you're not standing under the light source or have sunlight in your eyes..

IceJester45
IceJester45

Oh, and Kinect is pretty great, by the way. I've spent an inordinate amount of time since Thursday either playing Kinect or thinking about playing it.

IceJester45
IceJester45

@noturfangirl, So, you're asking why Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to consumer protection, cares about Kinect, a consumer product? Consumer Reports tests reliability and performance of almost everything you could buy from a retailer--from irons to laptops to automobiles. Of course they'd care about Kinect. Not only that, but Consumer Reports is non-profit. It exists solely because of its subscribers. Consumer Reports takes no advertising money, and it anonymously purchases everything it reviews from retailers (it doesn't receive review copies of stuff like GameSpot and IGN do). To me, Consumer Reports is far more reliable than GameSpot, IGN, Road & Track, etc. Consumer Reports did not receive money from Microsoft. Also, Microsoft has released a statement saying the Kinect's ID troubles were lighting-related. I'm not sure why you'd trust Microsoft over a third party like Consumer Reports or GameSpot, but whatever. If you're biased against Microsoft, you might smell a rat, though.

CamoBullo
CamoBullo

I'm amazed that people actually own Kinect itself. Remember when it was called EyeToy? Kinect is just a vastly updated version of that.

noturfangirl
noturfangirl

@IceJester45 If all these other articles from different companies keep coming out with different research on this, you would think M$ would was paying them to report good things about kinect. Why won't M$ come out with their own article about kinect being able to recognize everyone. Why do these non-gaming news companies care if kinect is good or not?

noturfangirl
noturfangirl

This is by far the best rated news article ever! Epic!

inferno394
inferno394

Having more light in the room, might fix the problem. But who wants to play in the light all the time?

grungeman91
grungeman91

This is highly idiotic but I'm not surprised that the Kinect has problems.

kobyjordan7
kobyjordan7

Kinect hates those burnt animals invading our towns and breathing all the White Man's air! White Power! Lol I'm not white but this is kinda funny.

ptown58
ptown58

Sad but funny, also sorry to those that live below a Kinect user. No one should be surprised if a M$ product has problems.

DennisWZH
DennisWZH

@noturfangirl: who knows, it might be possible.. they could make something like, if you put your hands straight up in front then your character move forward, and if you move your hand to the left or right, then your character move to the left or right.. it's definitely possible based on the games we have now.. it all depends on the dev whether they want to support this thing, and whether they can be creative with it.

juan99692k6
juan99692k6

Kinect= Epic Fail. $150 for a Racist piece of.....

noturfangirl
noturfangirl

@inferno394 I've got all the space & 'kinection' one would need. Outside. It's called a city park. Kinect is ok for casuals for a limited time. This thing won't be able to play fps or rpg without a controller. The 'only' games you will see on it , are the games that are out now, Rail type games. No moving your character back and forward or left and right in full 360 motion like an analog controller. Not gonna happen. Most people don't live in mansions to play it anyway. Wait about 6 months from now or sooner, and you won't see or hear anything else about this major flop.