Alternate Reality

10 Reasons Why HP’s Racist Web Cam Failed

Like G. W. Bush, HP’s facial recognition technology can only see white people. We have some theories why its Webcam isn’t down with the brothers.

By (@eSarcasm)

December 22, 2009

The story you're about to read is not (entirely) true. It is, however, more accurate than most things on network television.

Don’t look now, but that Web cam may be following you. Unless it’s made by Hewlett Packard and you happen to be black. In that case, you might as well be invisible.

Or so it seems after an African American YouTube fan named Desi posted some pretty convincing evidence that the facial recognition technology built into the HP TouchSmart PC’s web camera does not recognize black people as, well, people.


The video depicts the Web cam accurately following his Caucasian female friend, aka White Wanda, while treating Black Desi like he was the ghost in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

Desi’s conclusion: The HP cam is racist.

(There is no truth to the rumor that Desi immediately called the police and demanded to be arrested for Using a Computer While Black. However, Kanye West did call to tell us that HP doesn’t care about black people.)

At eSarcasm we couldn’t accept that conclusion at face value. So we consulted with a wide range of experts* as to why the camera failed to follow Black Desi’s face while accurately tracking White Wanda. Here are their best theories:
white wanda on youtube

1. The cam can only track US citizens, and Hawaiian-born Desi has failed to submit his long-form birth certificate.

2. A store employee had selected the Follow Fugly Beeyotches Only setting by accident.

3. The PC had Microsoft eRace technology pre-installed, which automatically changed Desi’s nationality to Icelandic, making him invisible to everyone but other Icelanders.

4. Desi is actually gay, and the HP cam doesn’t track homos.

5. At that precise moment the Windows 7 system suffered a black screen of death, making Desi indistinguishable from his surroundings.

6. Forget race, think physics: Wider faces are easier to detect — and Wanda has ‘Wide Load’ written all over her.
bill cosby ugly sweater

7. The Webcam isn’t racist; it’s bad-sweaterist. Cosby doesn’t show up either.

8. That camera didn’t even have a facial-recognition system; it was just moving around for fear that Wanda might catch and eat it.

9. The whole thing was actually a carefully planned viral marketing campaign. We’re the assholes who fell for it.

10. If you saw some of the things Desi did on that Webcam last night, you wouldn’t have followed him, either.

Glad we could clear that up.  

* If by ‘wide range’ you mean two, and by ‘expert’ you mean ‘people who don’t know shit’.

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  • Plugger

    In the millions of comments posted on YouTube and anywhere else, has anyone else commented on Wanda's size?

  • Plugger

    In the millions of comments posted on YouTube and anywhere else, has anyone else commented on Wanda's size?