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Microsoft’s Improved Face API More Accurately Recognizes a Range of Skin Tones

Currently, facial recognition tools tend to perform best on men with lighter skin and worst on women with darker skin

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Microsoft's beta Android launcher has digital health feature. Pixabay

Addressing two weak points in the currently available face recognition technologies, Microsoft has updated its facial recognition tools that can better identify people with darker skin tones than before.

With the new improvements, the tools were able to reduce the error rates for men and women with darker skin by up to 20 times.

“For all women, the error rates were reduced by nine times. Overall, with these improvements, they were able to significantly reduce accuracy differences across the demographics,” Microsoft said in a blog post written by John Roach late on Tuesday.

Currently, facial recognition tools tend to perform best on men with lighter skin and worst on women with darker skin.

“That improvement addresses recent concerns that commercially available facial recognition technologies more accurately recognised gender of people with lighter skin tones than darker skin tones, and that they performed best on males with lighter skin and worst on females with darker skin,” Roach wrote.

Representational image.
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

The higher error rates on females with darker skin highlights an industrywide challenge — Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies are only as good as the data used to train them.

If a facial recognition system is to perform well across all people, the training dataset needs to represent a diversity of skin tones as well as factors such as hairstyle, jewellery and eyewear.

The team responsible for the development of facial recognition technology at Microsoft, which is available to customers as the Face API via Azure Cognitive Services, worked with experts on bias and fairness across Microsoft to improve a system called the gender classifier, focusing specifically on getting better results for all skin tones.

Also Read: Microsoft Brings AI-powered Visual Search to Bing

“We had conversations about different ways to detect bias and operationalise fairness. We talked about data collection efforts to diversify the training data. We talked about different strategies to internally test our systems before we deploy them,” said Hanna Wallach, Senior Researcher in Microsoft’s New York research lab.

Wallach and her colleagues provided “a more nuanced understanding of bias,” said Cornelia Carapcea, a Principal Programme Manager on the Cognitive Services team, and helped her team create a more robust dataset “that held us accountable across skin tones.” (IANS)

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Software Giant Microsoft Aims to be ‘Carbon Negative’ by 2030

Microsoft said it will electrify its global campus operations vehicle fleet by 2030

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is shown outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash.
FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is shown outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash. VOA

Microsoft has set an ambitious goal to reduce its carbon footprint, saying that the company will become carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050, it will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted to date.

At an event at its headquarters on Thursday, the company announced a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove its carbon footprint.

“While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

“By 2030, Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050. Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975,” Smith said in the presence of CEO Satya Nadella, CFO Amy Hood and Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa.

The company also announced a new initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies.

“Beginning next year, the company will also make carbon reduction an explicit aspect of our procurement processes for our supply chain,” it said.

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FILE – A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

The human activity has released more than 2 trillion metric tonne of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere since the start of the First Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s.

Over three-quarters of this is carbon dioxide, with most of this carbon emitted since the mid-1950s. This is more carbon than nature can re-absorb, and every year, humanity pumps more than 50 billion metric tons of additional greenhouse gases into the air.

Also Read: Drinking Low-Fat Milk Can Help Slow Down Biological Aging: Researchers

“We recognize that progress requires not just a bold goal but a detailed plan. We are launching an aggressive program to cut our carbon emissions by more than half by 2030, both for our direct emissions and for our entire supply and value chain,” said Microsoft.

“By 2025, we will shift to 100 per cent supply of renewable energy, meaning that we will have power purchase agreements for green energy contracted for 100 per cent of carbon emitting electricity consumed by all our data centers, buildings, and campuses,” the tech giant emphasized.

Microsoft said it will electrify its global campus operations vehicle fleet by 2030. (IANS)