AI can have trouble recognizing diversity and MIT research is finding out why

MIT research looks into why AI has trouble recognizing diverse faces

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are helping to pinpoint why facial recognition software is not accurate across all races — and the issue likely stems from both recycled code and a Caucasian-dominated computer engineering field.

Joichi Ito, MIT’s Media Lab director, said during an artificial intelligence panel held this week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that the software’s apparent trouble with recognizing diversity is likely because the engineers, and the faces used to train the software, are mostly white.

The issue goes back to the basics of artificial intelligence. Machine learning programs are based on teaching a computer with a set of data. In the case of facial recognition software, that computer is taught to recognize faces using a series of photos — sometimes of the engineers themselves. Since a majority of the photos used to train the software contain few minorities, the program often has trouble picking out those minority faces, according to Ito.

The issue spreads even further because many programmers don’t completely rewrite their code from scratch. Software engineers use libraries, or prewritten code, in multiple programs. When that prewritten code is based on a set of photographs that favors one race over another, that bias is integrated into multiple programs.

Joy Buolamwini, a graduate researcher on the project, said during a TED talk that she had to use a white mask for her face to be picked up by facial-recognition systems, from a cheap webcam to a smart mirror and even a social robot being tested on the opposite side of the globe.

Besides not being able to use a smart mirror or being misidentified in social media, bigger issues arise when law enforcement use facial-recognition software, she says, like when monitoring video feeds.

Bulamwini said a solution to the issue would be to simply train the facial-detection systems with a more diverse set of images. Developing diverse teams to work on the projects would also help create more immersive coding, she suggests, as well as auditing existing software to identify biases. At the end of her discussion in December, Bulamwini invited anyone interested in working to change bias in the code to join the Algorithmic Justice League.


How General Motors is preparing for an electric, autonomous, connected future

How does an established automaker like General Motors adapt to new tech trends? By looking for people and solutions outside the mainstream, says Ken Kelzer, GM VP of global vehicle components and subsystems.
Emerging Tech

What the heck is machine learning, and why is it everywhere these days?

Machine learning has been responsible for some of the biggest advances in artificial intelligence over the past decade. But what exactly is it? Check out our handy beginner's guide.
Product Review

Hotter than a Dot? Google's Home Mini outsmarts, doesn't outperform Amazon rival

With voice match and improved artificial intelligence capabilities, the $49 Google Home Mini is a voice assistant that seamlessly puts the Google platform on the tip of your tongue.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.
Product Review

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a love letter to PC geeks

Lenovo’s ThinkPad line-up is targeted at business use, but it’s long appealed to hardcore PC geeks as well. The new X1 Extreme, which combines a powerful processor and high-resolution screen with Nvidia graphics, seems built for them…

Afraid that Bitcoin could be a bubble? Here's how to sell what you've got

If you're investing in cryptocurrencies, it's important to have your exit strategy in place if prices start to crash. If you've decided it's time to get out or just want to learn how to sell Bitcoins, here's how to get started.

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

If you weren't already aware, USB-C is quickly becoming mainstream. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone.

How to protect your iCloud account

From Chinese hacking to identity theft, it's not surprising if you're a little worried about your iCloud data. Here's how to protect your iCloud account with a few simple security steps. It will only take a few minutes, and we'll walk you…

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…

Adobe's "creativity conference" begins October 15. Here's what we hope to see

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Product Review

The Oculus Rift is cheaper, the Vive Pro is better. Is the original Vive still worth it?

The Oculus Rift may have brought virtual reality into the public eye, but HTC’s Vive, built in partnership with Valve, does it better. Does the Vive still represent the true future of virtual reality, or are there better competitors on…

Don't take your ISP's word for it: Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.