Google launches 10 shade skin tone palette to promote 'image equity'

Google announced on Wednesday that the company will begin using 10 shades in skin tone palettes used in gadgets and apps in order to promote "image equity."

"Today, we're introducing a next step in our commitment to image equity and improving representation across our products," Google said in a statement from Tulsee Doshi, head of product for Google's responsible AI team. "In partnership with Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Ellis Monk, we’re releasing a new skin tone scale designed to be more inclusive of the spectrum of skin tones we see in our society. Dr. Monk has been studying how skin tone and colorism affect people’s lives for more than 10 years."


Monk Skin Tone Scale (Photo credit: Google)

Google says the new scale was designed to be more "representative" of all skin tones and found that the new model is more inclusive than the current tech industry standard "especially" for people with darker skin tones.

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"In our research, we found that a lot of the time people feel they’re lumped into racial categories, but there’s all this heterogeneity with ethnic and racial categories," Dr. Monk said. "And many methods of categorization, including past skin tone scales, don’t pay attention to this diversity. That’s where a lack of representation can happen…we need to fine-tune the way we measure things, so people feel represented."


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2022/04/14: An exterior view of the entrance to Google - King's Cross offices in central London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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.

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Doshi called the Monk scale "a good balance between being representative and being tractable."

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Google website displayed on a phone (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Google says that the new skin palette will be helpful when people of color look for products in search results.

"Seeing yourself represented in results can be key to finding information that's truly relevant and useful, which is why we’re also rolling out improvements to show a greater range of skin tones in image results for broad searches about people, or ones where people show up in the results," the statement said. "In the future, we’ll incorporate the MST Scale to better detect and rank images to include a broader range of results, so everyone can find what they're looking for."

Google says that the new Real Tone filters will be "rolling out on Google Photos across Android, iOS and Web in the coming weeks."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox Business.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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