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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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Microsoft Acquires Express Logic to Push IoT Dream

Microsoft is getting an established company with a proven product that can help it scale its Azure IoT business

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

Microsoft has acquired San Diego-based software company Express Logic, that makes software for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to accelerate IoT development for billions of devices at scale.

With this acquisition, Microsoft said late Thursday it will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to its Azure Cloud and enable new intelligent capabilities.

“I am incredibly excited to share we have acquired Express Logic, a leader in real time operating systems (RTOS) for IoT and edge devices powered by micro-controller units (MCUs),” said Sam George, Director, Azure IoT at Microsoft.

Manufacturers building products across categories — from low capacity sensors like light bulbs and temperature gauges to air conditioners, medical devices, and network appliances — leverage the size, safety and security benefits of Express Logic solutions to achieve faster time to market.

Microsoft
Logo of Microsoft outside it’s office. Pixabay

“Even highly constrained devices (battery powered and having less than 64KB of flash memory) can use Express Logic solutions. Over 9 billion of these MCU-powered devices are built and deployed globally every year, many of which can benefit from Express Logic solutions,” said Microsoft.

Microsoft is getting an established company with a proven product that can help it scale its Azure IoT business.

Also Read- Uber’s Self-driving Unit Gets $1 bn Investment

The acquisition is part of a $5 billion investment in IoT the company announced last April that includes a number of Azure pieces, such as Azure Sphere, Azure Digital Twins, Azure IoT Edge, Azure Maps and Azure IoT Central. (IANS)