Robots judged a beauty contest and it turned out kind of racist

Kiara Keane@kiarakeane
Friday 09 September 2016 17:20
news

An international beauty contest judged by robots was supposed to be completely impartial - but that's not exactly what happened.

Beauty.AI – the first contest of its kind – judged participants on factors such as age group, wrinkles and facial symmetry using five different algorithms.

It was created by a group called Youth Laboratories and supported by Microsoft, and those who entered were not allowed to wear make-up or have sunglasses or a beard in their photo.

But despite those seemingly impartial factors, almost all of the 44 winners were white.

More than 6,000 people from around the world entered the competition, though just one winner had dark skin, while a handful were Asian.

Beauty.AI said that even though many people from India and Africa entered, 75 per cent of contestants were white, which could explain why it seemed like the robots were racist.

Alex Zhavoronkov, chief science officer of Beauty.AI, told the Guardian:

If you have not that many people of colour within the dataset, then you might actually have biased results. When you’re training an algorithm to recognize certain patterns … you might not have enough data, or the data might be biased.

Aside from their AI coming up with a seemingly racist result, the creators said their other intention was to show how it could be used to determine a person’s health from a photo alone.

Their website explains:

This has enabled the team of biogerontologists and data scientists, who believe that in the near future machines will be able to get a lot of vital medical information about people's health by just processing their photos.

They might have a few kinks to work out first, though...

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