Beauty contest run by computers slammed because AI doesn't like dark skin
The first beauty contest judged by machines has chosen an almost all white lineup of winners, sparking dismay among the artificial intelligence industry.
Beauty.ai was billed as the first international beauty contest judged by robot "juries", a series of artificial intelligence programs created by a group called Youth Laboratories with support from Microsoft and Nvidia.
Six thousand people entered, downloading an app, then uploading selfies for the programmes to evaluate beauty using algorithms to examine facial symmetry, wrinkliness, skin colour, age, gender, and ethnicity.
The idea was open to developers around the world to contribute programmes to the contest, which used so-called "deep learning" machine intelligence techniques also used by Facebook and Google.
But when the results were announced there was a collective sigh, as all but a handful of the winners were Caucasian.
Of 44 winners, almost all of them were white, a handful were Asian, and one had dark skin. Most of the contestants were white although lots of people submitted photos from Africa and India.
It's been suggested the number of entrants did not include enough minorities, so the organisers have decided to go back to the drawing board and hold more contests.
The surprising results led to scores of angry emails to the Beauty.ai team, who have now proposed another contest using updated algorithms to finetune the evaluation of human beauty.
In a statement, the artificial intelligence team said the consensus scores provided by the robot jury were at odds with human opinion.
Complaints included "You need human opinion" and "If this is how I will be judged in the future, I don't want to see it".
Youth Laboratories' research manager Anastasya Georgievskaya said the team was shocked by the outrage caused by the winners' leaderboard.
"Many participants disagreed with the jury and proposed getting a human opinion.
"But with every Beauty.ai contest we are getting more ideas on how to evaluate the human face and even go beyond the face evaluating multiple features of the human body and even social profiles."
They are also considering turning the contest into an on-stage show, rather than submitting selfies. Instead, human models will be judged by a robot jury live on stage.
When the project was announced, Youth Laboratories co-founder Alexey Shevtsov said the contest aimed to deliver impartial methods for evaluating beauty. They hoped to go down in history by judging human beauty with machines and by programming computers to evaluate attractiveness.
"Artificial intelligence systems have already surpassed humans in image recognition, and it is only a matter of time before robots will be able to evaluate human visual appeal, engage in fashion design, and even make perfumes."
A consultant on aging, Insilco Medicine chief executive Alex Zhavoronkov said most people were not interested in aging, but they were interested in how others perceive beauty.
"Humans are generally biased and there needs to be a robot to provide an impartial opinion. Beauty.ai is the first step in a much larger story, in which a mobile app trained to evaluate the perception of human appearance will evolve into a caring personal assistant to help users look their best and retain their youthful looks for as long as possible."
The results of the beauty contest also raised questions about the increasing use of algorithms, predictive software, and artificial intelligence systems.