Open source inclusivity


(Image credit: Future)

Announced during Google IO 2022, “Skin Tone Research” is a new free and open-source development tool from Google Responsible AI that utilizes Dr. Ellis Monk’s Monk Skin Tone Scale in order to make more inclusive AI that should work better for all users. 

During Google’s IO keynote presentation, Annie Jean-Baptiste claimed that their research indicates “more people in the US find the Monk Scale to more accurately reflect their skin tone compared to the current industry standard.” Annie Jean-Baptist additionally stated this was especially true for people with darker skin tones.

Google has already been using the Monk Skin Tone Scale for some time in order to improve how they understand and represent skin tone across their products such as Photos and Search, however now Google has begun testing the scale globally in order to improve users’ experience and the software. 

In partnership with Dr. Ellis Monk, we’re releasing a new skin tone scale designed to be more inclusive of the full spectrum of skin tones — the next step in our commitment to image equity and improving representation across our products. #GoogleIO 11, 2022

Users will be able to see improvements brought about through the Monk Skin Tone Scale through apps such as Image Search, which will now show a range of skin tones in search results while also offering a new way to filter by relevant skin tones, to help find more useful information. 

During the presentation, and accompanying blog post, it also announced that later this month, Google Photos will be getting new Real Tone filters thanks to their work using the Monk Skin Tone Sale. These filters are designed to work well across skin tones and have been created by “a diverse range of renowned image-makers who are celebrated for beautiful and accurate depictions of their subjects.” 

Analysis: One step closer to inclusivity

With many artificial intelligence programs having been criticized for their ability to detect and serve the needs of people of color, Google and Dr. Monk’s Skin Tone Research has the power to be an incredibly useful tool for both developers and users who’re looking for more accessibility in the apps they create and use. 

While Google’s Skin Tone Research is a huge step towards creating a more inclusive tomorrow, it will take a lot more than just one company to create the level of inclusivity that people deserve. Hopefully, thanks to Google making its Skin Tone Research open-source that inclusivity isn’t as much of a pipe dream as it once was. 


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