Can robots be racist? Okay, we've heard all the jokes about Asians having small eyes. Fine. Get the f*ck over it. But here's how it can get really inconvenient. In New Zealand, an Asian man recently got his passport photo rejected when facial recognition software mistakenly registered his eyes as being closed.
New Zealand passport robot tells applicant of Asian descent to open eyes
Richard Lee was trying to renew his passport, but found his attempts repeatedly blocked by the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs' automated online passport system, claiming his photo did not meet the technical requirements. The reason given: his eyes were closed in the photo. But actually, his eyes are clearly open.
Lee posted a screen shot of the notification on Facebook:
Lee, who is a student and DJ based in Melbourne, was born in Taiwan and grew up New Zealand. And his eyes were definitely open! He contacted the Department of Internal Affairs to ask why his photo wasn't accepted. A spokesman told him there was "uneven lighting on the face."
"I tried different ones and no luck, so I rang the office they said it's to do with the shadow in my eyes and uneven lighting in the face," Lee told the Daily Mail. He had to submit a new photo, which was finally accepted.
According to New Zealand's Department of Immigration, the face-scanning software is "one of the most technologically advanced in the world," but such rejections were common, with up to 20 percent of online photos submitted getting rejected for a variety of reasons. You have to wonder how many others, with eyes wide open, have been rejected because their eyes were supposedly closed.
Obviously, an automated system is not going to be perfect. And maybe the robot isn't trying to discriminate. But somebody needs to look into re-calibrating this shit because it's apparent that this the system wasn't necessarily designed for some of the features common for a face like Richard's. Come on. That's racist.
More here: Man sees humour in 'racist' facial recognition software
Of course, technology not quite understanding the shape of Asian eyes is nothing knew, as our pal Joz infamously discovered back in 2009 when her digital camera kept asking her "Did someone blink?"