Google announced today at its I/O developer conference that it’s incorporating a 10-shade skin tone scale in several of its products over the coming months. The scale was created in partnership with Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Ellis Monk. The new Monk Skin Tone (MST) scale is designed to be more inclusive of various skin tones. Google is releasing the MST scale so anyone can use it for research and product development.
The company is introducing new features using the scale to make it easier for people to find more relevant results in Search. Now, when you search for makeup or beauty-related queries in Google Images, you’ll see a new option to further refine the results by skin tone. For example, if you’re looking for “bridal makeup looks,” you’ll have the option to find results that work best for you. In the future, Google plans to incorporate the MST scale to better detect and rank images to include a broader range of results to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
In addition, Google is working to develop a standardized way to label web content that will allow creators, brands and publishers to label their content with attributes like skin tone, hair color and hair texture. The labels will make it possible for search engines and other platforms to easily understand imagery.
Google says the MST scale will help it build more representative datasets so that it can train and evaluate AI models for fairness. For instance, the company is using the scale to improve the models that detect faces in images.
The company is also using the MST scale to improve Google Photos. Last year, Google introduced Real Tone for Pixel phones, which is an AI-powered post-processing feature that aims to make faces with all skin tones show up as well as possible. Now, the company is introducing a new set of Real Tone filters that are designed to work well across skin tones and evaluated using the MST Scale. The new Real Tone filters are rolling out on Google Photos across Android, iOS and the web in the coming weeks.
Google says the new approach and scale will help it to evaluate whether a product or feature works well across a range of skin tones. The company will continue to work with Dr. Monk to evaluate the MST Scale across different regions and product applications. Google outlines that the MST Scale is an important next step in improving skin tone inclusivity in technology and will help it make progress in its commitment to image equity and improving representation.