UPDATE: After we first posted this item on Thursday morning, Consumer Reports reported that its testing found the Kinect is not racist, but that the product's difficulty in recognizing certain faces is related to low lighting. GameSpot testers also updated on Friday to say it's unclear whether skin color is a factor in the camera's inconsistent performance, as clothing and lighting seem to be.
Of all the headlines to avoid on the day a company launches a brand-new, signature product, "New Invention Doesn't Like Black People" is probably near the top. Microsoft failed on the count today when several GameSpot employees reported that the new "Kinect" motion capture hardware system for the Xbox 360 has problems recognizing dark-skinned faces.Kinect uses a special camera to recognize motion from the body parts and facial expressions of its users.
Technologically, it's understandable that darker colors might present a tougher challenge for a camera to pull contrast out of.
But knowing that (unless the company employs no minority product testers), one would think Microsoft would crank up the sensitivity or whatever it takes to avoid alienating any gamers whose ancestors didn't come over from Europe.
It's unclear how widespread the problem is or if Microsoft will be able to fix it with a downloadable patch.
Microsoft Kinect will be competing fiercely with the Sony "Playstation Move" system for dominance in the post-Nintendo Wii motion capture gaming market. The company is trying to ship 5 million systems by the end of the end of the year--a goal they'll still surely meet if they can convince white people to just buy two.