Skip to main content

The Monk Skin Tone Scale makes the internet more inclusive

Google has adopted the Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale for use across its software and products to ensure all kinds of skin tones are accurately portrayed and represented on the internet. The MST Scale is the work of Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Ellis Monk, and is a 10-point scale that help machines better understand and therefore better represent more varied skin tones. It’s a considerable step up from the six-point scale commonly used online today.

Monk Skin Tone Scale | Google's Research Center for Responsible AI and Human-Centered Technology

The 10-point scale has been validated through a U.S. study launched by Google Research, which asked people from a range of different communities if they felt their skin tone was represented on it. Why only 10 points and not 100, or 1,000? Dr. Ellis explains:

“You only pick so many tones to use in the scale because of cognitive latency issues. If you have a scale with too many points, that’s impractical for humans and from an A.I. point of view, furthermore, it becomes a problem when a scale is too large.”

Get your weekly teardown of the tech behind PC gaming
Check your inbox!

The MST Scale with its 10 points has enough variation that it reflects more people than the current model, yet doesn’t increase complexity, enabling computers and software to adapt to it quickly. However, this is not its absolutely final state. Google says the scale and the A.I. that supports it are a work in progress, and it’s seen as an initial step in the right direction. The MST Scale is open source and through partnerships in the industry, it will be used to improve images and content online as part of an effort to make the internet more inclusive.

Search results using the Monk Skin Tone Scale
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Where will we see the MST Scale in action? Google specifically mentions Google Images, where an option to refine results by including skin tone will be added. The MST Scale will then help provide results that better suit you. The MST Scale will also come to Google Photos through a series of new Real Tone filters added to it, which are designed using the scale to better accommodate more skin tones. These will be coming to the iOS and Android Google Photos app in the coming weeks.

The MST Scale continues the work Google started in 2021 under the name Real Tone, where the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro’s cameras used A.I. and other tools to better render different skin tones. The Real Tone tool was also built into the Auto Enhance feature in Google Photos.

Take a look at the 10-point MST Scale here, where Google has even made the scale available with HEX codes, and the shades are easily copied and pasted for your own use. The use of the MST Scale is part of the company’s Google I/O 2022 announcements.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
These are the best smartphones from MWC 2024
Motorola's concept folding phone.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 has come and gone, leaving us with a flood of smartphone announcements. From new devices launching soon to wild concepts that may never see the light of day, it's the place to be if you're a phone geek.

We got a look at some of the hottest new phones during the show, and these are our picks for the very best ones.
Tecno Pova 6 Pro

Read more
Your Google Pixel phone may soon get a lifesaving feature
A person holding the Google Pixel 8 Pro.

Google Pixel 8 Pro Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you have a Google Pixel phone or plan on buying one in the future, you could be getting an important safety feature in the very near future. As spotted in an update for Google's Adaptive Connectivity Services app, Google is planning on adding a "Satellite SOS" feature to its Pixel devices.

Read more
How to get a D-pad on your Apple TV Remote app
Directional buttons on the Apple TV Remote app on an iPhone.

There are myriad reasons why we consider Apple TV 4K to be the best streaming device you can buy. And one of those reasons is that the excellent integration with iPhones and iPads. With just a couple taps, you can use your mobile device as a remote control, for those times in which you simply can't be bothered to look for the little Siri Remote.

Read more