Toban B., Elisabeth, and Mark sent us a link to a post at jozjozjoz about the Nikon S630 digital camera. As Joz explains, “As I was taking pictures of my family, it kept asking ‘Did someone blink?’ even though our eyes were always open.”

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Apparently the camera perceives “Asian” eyes as closed.

Does anyone know about how cameras are programmed to do things like recognize blinking? Does the program include specific measurements to look for to define an eye as open or closed and then prompt the user with a question about blinking? It would seem that the program doesn’t know how to deal with Asian features, which makes me wonder about the “typical” faces or facial features used to write the program–who was used as the “neutral” model?

Anybody know more about how these types of programs are written and how specifications are chosen to provide the camera a baseline for determining that the face in a photo requires “fixing” of some sort?

UPDATE: Commenter Elizabeth says,

I just got back from vacation with a friend who has this camera (we are three white women) and after every photo,  it asked us, “Did someone blink?”  It became a running joke because the sensor asked this question whether or not there was a person (or blinking person) in the shot.

Several of our other commenters had some info on how face-recognition programs work and what the problem might be, and that a) they generally suck and b) might suck slightly more for some groups than others, but still are overall pretty crappy at this point no matter what.

NEW! Racialicious posted about the Microsoft Natal game, which seems to have some problems recognizing the movements of people with dark skin (and maybe dreadlocks):

Research into the issue resulted in a study concluding that near-infra-red cameras did indeed struggle to read movements from those with darker skin. However, Microsoft has responded to these worries, telling Gamezine that all ethnicities will be able to use the technology.

The post has a really good discussion about race and “neutral” avatars in games, including some in which you have to pay extra to get a non-White character.

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