Derm Assist: New Google AI tool can help people identify skin conditions

The artificial intelligence tool recognises 288 skin conditions, but is not a substitute for a medical diagnosis

New Google AI tool Derm Assist recognises 288 skin conditions, but is not a substitute for a medical diagnosis. Getty Images 
New Google AI tool Derm Assist recognises 288 skin conditions, but is not a substitute for a medical diagnosis. Getty Images 

Google has announced a new artificial intelligence tool that aims to help people identify skin, hair and nail conditions.

Unveiled at the Google I/O conference, the Derm Assist tool uses images uploaded by patients to identify possible abnormalities. It is expected to launch later this year.

The tool is not intended to provide a diagnosis ... we hope it gives you access to authoritative information

Google spokesperson

According to Google, the AI tool recognises 288 skin conditions, but the technology major made it clear that it should not be used as a substitute for a medical diagnosis. The company revealed that there are 10 billion searches for skin, hair and nail issues on its search engine annually.

“The tool is not intended to provide a diagnosis,” a Google representative said, “ rather we hope it gives you access to authoritative information so you can make a more informed decision about your next step.”

To access the tool, users will sign in to their Google accounts and upload images of the medical condition in question to the Derm Assist website. They will also answer a series of questions about their symptoms.

Google AI tool can help patients identify skin conditions.    
Google AI tool Derm Assist will help patients identify skin conditions. Courtesy Google

The condition is then analysed by an AI model, which will generate a list of possible matching conditions, taking the patient closer to a diagnosis. The tool will be free to use and has been in the building for three years.

“Skin diseases as a category are an enormous global burden – people are turning to Google to research their skin concerns,” said Dr Peggy Bui, product manager at Google Health and an internal medicine specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. "Most cases are curable, but half the world’s population faces a critical shortage of dermatologists."

According to Google, of the 10 billion annual searches, only 13 per cent of people correctly self-diagnose.

The announcement of the Derm Assist tool comes during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, as it's a cancer many argue does not get talked about as much as it should, considering melanoma is in the top five of the most fatal cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, which charts cancer rates across 185 countries, in 2020 more than a million people were diagnosed with non-melanoma cancer, contributing to nearly 64,000 deaths. And almost 325,000 instances of melanoma cancer were found, with 57,000 cases proving fatal.

Updated: May 19, 2021 03:14 PM

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