What is Google's Monk Skin Tone Scale? How will it detect AI bias?

Edited By: Manas Joshi
California Updated: May 17, 2022, 12:16 AM(IST)

A Google employee speaks at the company's annual I/O developer conference at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 11, 2022. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

When it launched the new Monk Skin Tone Scale, Google's parent company Alphabet Inc said that the palette would replace a flawed standard of six colors known as the Fitzpatrick Skin Type, which had become popular in the tech industry to assess whether smartwatch heart-rate sensors, artificial intelligence systems including facial recognition and other offerings show color bias

Google last week unveiled its new palette of 10 skin tones which is touted to be a step forward in making AI serve people of colour better.

When it launched the new Monk Skin Tone Scale, Google's parent company Alphabet Inc said that the palette would replace a flawed standard of six colors known as the Fitzpatrick Skin Type, which had become popular in the tech industry to assess whether smartwatch heart-rate sensors, artificial intelligence systems including facial recognition and other offerings show color bias.

Tech researchers acknowledged that Fitzpatrick underrepresented people with darker skin. Reuters exclusively reported last year that Google was developing an alternative.

To develop the new palette, Google partnered with Harvard University sociologist Ellis Monk. He studied colorism and  had felt dehumanized by cameras that failed to detect his face and reflect his skin tone.

Monk said Fitzpatrick is great for classifying differences among lighter skin. But most people are darker, so he wanted a scale that "does better job for the majority of world," he said.

Monk through Photoshop and other digital art tools curated 10 tones - a manageable number for people who help train and assess AI systems. He and Google surveyed around 3,000 people across the United States and found that a significant number said a 10-point scale matched their skin as well as a 40-shade palette did.

Tulsee Doshi, head of product for Google's responsible AI team, called the Monk scale "a good balance between being representative and being tractable."

Google is already applying it. Beauty-related Google Images searches such as "bridal makeup looks" now allow filtering results based on Monk. Image searches such as "cute babies" now show photos with varying skin tones.

(With inputs from agencies)

WATCH WION LIVE HERE

 

Read in App