At its I/O 2022 developer conference, Google announced that it will incorporate a new 10-shade skin tone scale in many of its apps and services to better represent people of color. Inclusion and representation for underrepresented communities are much more than just corporate buzzwords, and are critically important in real life. One of the complaints against Google and other tech companies has been that the way their products and services depict darker skin tones is not representative of reality.
As part of its plans to rectify the decades-long problem, Google last year introduced the ‘Real Tone’ feature for Pixel phones. It is an AI-powered post-processing algorithm that aims to improve portraits of people with darker skin tones, irrespective of the ambient light. While it is difficult for traditional technology to get the correct exposure for all different skin tones in a group photo, Google’s AI-powered computation photography ensures that people with different skin tones in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic photograph will look equally good, without any over or under exposure.
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The new 10-shade skin tone scale being incorporated by Google is called the Monk Skin Tone (MST) scale. Developed by Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Ellis Monk, it aims to be more inclusive of different skin tones. Research has also found it to be good at correctly representing the skin tones for people across the spectrum, but especially more so for those with darker skin. In a blog post, Google said that the scale will be incorporated into various Google products over the coming months. The company also announced that it is openly releasing the scale so that anyone can use it for research and product development.
The MST Scale Will Help Improve Search And Photos
Google says that the MST scale will help improve skin tone representation in many of its products and services, including Search and Photos. With the rollout of the new feature, users searching for makeup or beauty-related images will see a new option to fine-tune results by skin tone. According to Google, this will help users find what suits their skin tone the best. In the future, Google says it will use the scale to “better detect and rank images to include a broader range of results.” To make this more user-friendly, creators, brands and publishers will be able to use the MST scale to label their content with skin tone, hair color and hair texture to ensure that they show up in Google search for the correct query.
Google is also improving Google Photos by launching a new set of Real Tone filters that use the MST scale to refine the skin tones of people. According to the company, the new filters offer different looks to help users fine-tune their skin tone to reflect reality and represent their true look. To make this possible, the company says it worked with renowned photographers, like Kennedi Carter and Joshua Kissi, who helped Google in evaluating, testing and creating these filters. Real Tone filters will be rolling out to Google Photos on Android, iOS and the website “in the coming weeks.”