Xbox Kinect Not 'Racist', Tests Show

Consumer Reports dismisses bloggers' claims that Microsoft's new control system doesn't detect darker skin tones.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

November 5, 2010

2 Min Read

Consumer Reports said it has debunked claims that Microsoft's new hands-free control system for the Xbox 360 does not work for African Americans or other individuals with darker skin tones.

Xbox Kinect

Xbox Kinect

(click image for larger view)
Xbox Kinect

Xbox Kinect uses cameras and other sensors to track human body movements and translate them to on-screen actions.

But some blogs, including a post on GameSpot, claimed Kinect is unable to detect dark skin tones. Consumer Reports, however, said its tests show there is no substance to such claims.

"Consumer Reports did not encounter this issue with the Kinect and facial recognition when we first tested it," staffers at the magazine said in a blog post Thursday. Consumer Reports said stories suggesting the Kinect system is "racist" are similar to reports that certain HP webcams are unable to detect African American features.

Both claims are unfounded, said the magazine, which noted that any Kinect performance issues are most likely related to poor lighting conditions, and not the user's 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," Consumer Reports staff said.

The magazine said it tested Kinect with both light-skinned players and dark-skinned players. "At no time did it recognize one player and not the other," the staffers said.

The Kinect sensor bar features a camera, audio sensors, and motion-sensing technology that tracks 48 points of movement on the human body. That means players can control on-screen action simply through physical gestures and verbal commands. The sensor bar is designed to plug directly into the Xbox 360 console.

Microsoft formally launched Kinect on Thursday. The company is offering Kinect bundled with a 250GB Xbox 360 for $399 while the 4GB version is selling for $299. The Kinect sensor bar is also available as a standalone product for $149.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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