There’s an old saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” With the amount of bad press leading up to the launch of Kinect, Microsoft may disagree. We already reported on the rumors surrounding the ability (or inability) to recognize sign language, voice commands, and whether or not Kinect would be a solo experience. Microsoft quickly clarified many of the issues, but one potentially offensive rumor persisted: that Kinect could not recognize players with dark skin. Finally, this falsehood can be put to bed.
Consumer Reports has gotten their hands on one of the devices, and after extensive testing, have determined that any inabilities of the system to recognize faces is due to lighting issues, not skin tone:
The log-in problem is related to low-level lighting and not directly to players’ skin color…Kinect 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 tested the Kinect by having subjects with different skin colors test the device’s ability to recognize faces in varying levels of light, simulating different situations in homes.
Essentially, Kinect recognised both players at light levels typically used in living rooms at night and failed to recognize both players when the lights were turned down lower. So far, we did not experience any instance where one player was recognised and the other wasn’t under the same lighting conditions.
Given that face recognition isn’t required to access the majority of the Kinect’s features, the issue would have been a minor one if it had actually existed. Because the Kinect primarily relies upon an infrared light, it could technically be used in a pitch black room, so a person’s skin color is unimportant.
Finally, the claims that the Kinect is racist can be put to rest. This likely will not be the last unfounded rumor about Microsoft’s new device, but rest assured that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you can still be the controller.