AI-powered facial or emotion recognition tools have been the focus of criticism by many tech experts. Hence, Microsoft finally decided to end public access to its many AI-powered facial analysis tools, including the emotion recognition one. The emotion recognition tool claims to identify a subject’s emotions from images and videos. But, experts argue that facial expressions differ from person to person. Thus, the tool is unscientific to equate external displays of emotion with internal feelings.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, says that although the tool can detect a scowl, it’s not similar to detecting anger.
Furthermore, Microsoft decided to phase out public access to AI-powered facial recognition tools due to its AI ethics policies. Its updated Responsible AI Standards policy emphasizes accountability to determine who uses Microsoft’s services and greater human oversight into where these tools are used.
Therefore, Microsoft will limit users’ access to some of the features of its AI-powered facials recognition tools, completely removing others. One of those features is Azure Face, and users have to put forward an application to use it for facial identification. Thus, they need to give exact details to the company of how and where they will use the feature. Additionally, Microsoft is removing Azure Face’s ability to identify “attributes like gender, age, smile, facial hair, hair, and makeup.”
Natasha Crampton, Microsoft’s chief AI officer, stated that experts also expressed privacy concerns regarding AI-powered facial recognition tools. Additionally, the company will stop offering new customers these tools from June 21, 2022. And it will remove access of existing users on June 30, 2023.
Interestingly, Microsoft plans to use AI-powered facial recognition features in the Seeing AI app. The app uses machine vision to describe the surroundings and the world to people with visual disabilities.
On another note, Sarah Bird, Microsoft’s principal group product manager for Azure AI, believes that emotion recognition tools are “valuable” if used for “controlled accessibility scenarios.” However, it is unclear if Microsoft will use them in its other products. Besides removing public access to AI-powered facial recognition tools, Microsoft also imposed restrictions on its Custom Neural Voice feature.