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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 pauses rollout of Windows 10 October update. Pixabay
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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 Co-Founder Paul Allen Will Be Remembered

Allen was also owner of the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks, and the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team.

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Paul Allen
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at a news conference (from archives). VOA

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who visualized the indispensability of the personal computer more than 40 years ago, died Monday at 65.

Allen’s family said he died in Seattle of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer he had been battling off and on since 2009.

After persuading high school friend Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard in 1975, the two teamed up to develop a rudimentary software that hobbyists used to operate home-built computers.

Microsoft, paul allen
An advertisement is played on a set of large screens at the Microsoft office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S, VOA

“I expect the personal computer to become the kind of thing that people carry with them, a companion that takes notes, does accounting, gives reminders, handles a thousand personal tasks,” Allen wrote in Personal Computing magazine in 1977.

Allen and Gates called their company Microsoft and spent the next several years developing the software that revolutionized the world.

Allen and Gates split in 1983, but Allen kept his share of Microsoft, making him a billionaire.

Gates issued a statement on Allen’s death late Monday.

Paul Allen
Paul Allen in 2003

“I am heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paul Allen,” he said.

According to Forbes magazine, Allen was worth nearly $22 billion at the time of his death, making him the world’s 44th wealthiest person.

Allen was also owner of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, and the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team.

Also Read: Microsoft Cannot Recover Files Deleted By Windows 10 Update

He also used his wealth to refurbish a crumbling neighborhood of his native Seattle, turning it into a headquarters for Amazon. (VOA)