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AI bias tests gloss over a crucial aspect of skin color, Sony research claims

A series of wireframe faces.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

While the AI industry has focused on making its algorithms less biased based on the lightness or darkness of people’s skin tones, new research from Sony is calling for red and yellow skin hues to also be taken into account. In a paper published last month, authors William Thong and Alice Xiang from Sony AI, as well as Przemyslaw Joniak from the University of Tokyo, put forward a more “multidimensional” measurement of skin color in the hope that it might lead to more diverse and representative AI systems.

Researchers have been drawing attention to skin color biases in AI systems for years, including in an important 2018 study from Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru that found AI was more prone to inaccuracies when used on darker-skinned…

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