The video, posted by Chukwuemeka Afigbo and about 45 seconds long, first shows a man with a light skin tone putting his hand forward and the dispenser spurting soap into his hand. Then, a man with a darker skin tone is seen putting his hand forward. Only, this time, the dispenser doesn't spurt soap out. The man then goes on to pull out a white paper towel and places it on his hand. This time, the dispenser spurts the soap onto the paper towel.
"If you have ever had a problem grasping the importance of diversity in tech and its impact on society, watch this video," Mr Afigbo says in the tweet accompanying his video.
If you have ever had a problem grasping the importance of diversity in tech and its impact on society, watch this video pic.twitter.com/ZJ1Je1C4NW- Chukwuemeka Afigbo (@nke_ise) August 16, 2017
Back in 2015, a similar video sparked an outcry. The soap dispensers, filmed at a Marriott hotel in Atlanta, didn't seem to sense the hands of a dark-skinned man. "I tried all the soap dispensers in that restroom, there were maybe 10, and none of them worked," the narrator of the video, TJ Fitzpatrick, told Mic. Any time I went into that restroom, I had to have my friend get the soap for me."
Richard Whitney, VP of product at Particle, told Mic back in 2015 that such dispensers use infrared technology to dispense soap. When light from an infrared LED bulb reflects off of hands back to the sensor, the dispenser spurts out the soap. "If the reflective object actually absorbs that light instead, then the sensor will never trigger because not enough light gets to it," he told Mic.
The new video has prompted a flurry of reactions on Twitter. While some agree with Mr Afigbo, many others say flawed technology is to blame for this.
A simple problem in a sensor of machine can't be a society problem, the people are crazy?!- Vitor (@vitorwy) August 16, 2017
Maybe if the company that designed this employed a single dark skinned person they'd have found this problem earlier.- kaitlmoo (@kaitlinsm) August 16, 2017
Looks like a lighting issue to me. An IR scanner doesnt "see" skin color. poorly lit bathroom fixtures dont work for me either sometimes- Iunno N Emoore (@noticeofpoop) August 16, 2017
*face palm* not about the scanner; its about not having a coding staff diverse & thoughtful enough to have one that recognizes DARKER color- Don Wil de Corona (@AfroDiasproduct) August 16, 2017
How does a faulty sensor in a machine compare to a palpable issue like diversity in Tech? Don't be naive please. This proves nothing- Bill Michael (@five_nine_dev) August 16, 2017
it happened with a face recognition software as well, some of these sensors don't pick up darker skin, poc at the company would help- sunshine (@thickplusfit) August 16, 2017
Clearly the soap dispenser needs to come clean about its racist outlook in life.- Boyce Franks (@TheCelticBongo) August 16, 2017
So many people justifying this and showcasing just how deeply embedded racism is. Y'all think it's a *just* a tech prob. PEOPLE CREATE TECH.- Marlo (@coldgirlfeverr) August 16, 2017
I've always wondered about this. I see so many POC women in the restroom struggling with hand dryers- Tina Griffin (@tmcgriffin) August 16, 2017
Do not look for racism where it is not ... it's all about the light sensor in the soap dispenser ...- Mister Twister (@0bivan) August 18, 2017
diversity issues aside, how does someone with really dirty hands get soap to clean them with?- Chris Puttick (@putt1ck) August 16, 2017
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