Automatic soap dispenser fails to recognise a Black person's hand

Occurred: August 2017

An automatic soap dispenser has been found to dish out soap to a white person’s hand, but not a black person’s, resulting in accusation of 'racism'.

Nigerian Facebook employee Chukwuemeka Afigbo shot a video in which a person with light skin received a dollop of foamy froth after waving their hand underneath, but hhen the next person, who has dark skin, gave it a go, nothing came out. He then tooks a white piece of tissue and waved it under the dispenser and it appeared to work.

Per IFLScience, the dispenser most likely used a light sensor to detect when a hand is beneath it. 

Its inability to sense darker skin raised questions about diverity and racism in technology, and about the lack of diversity in the industry that creates these kinds of products. 

Two years earlier, an African-American attending the Dragon Con sci-fi and fantasy convention visited a bathroom in the Marriott hotel in Atlanta and discovered the soap dispenser wouldn't sense his hands, even though it worked fine for his white friend. 

System 🤖

Developer: Shenzhen Yuekun Technology
Country: USA
Sector: Travel/hospitality
Purpose: Dispense soap
Technology: Infrared; Light sensor
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2023