UofT spin-out Halt AI launches tool to measure brand diversity on social media

The Halt AI co-founders previously worked for AR beauty tech company ModiFace.

A University of Toronto (UofT) spin-off project has launched a new tool to measure diversity in online media.

Toronto-based Halt AI’s Diversity Analytics Dashboard is designed to get a quick summary of companies’ diversity in their visual content. It analyzes every social media account across an entire industry and reports the amount of diversity in images using six categories: race, age, gender, body type, skin color and disability.

Initially a project at UofT to measure artificial intelligence (AI) bias, Halt AI was spun off from the institution in late 2021 with a focus on diversity analysis.

“People get attached to the idea of ​​diversity, without really… understanding what it is or acknowledging the different aspects of it.”
–Amanda Cosco

Co-founder and chief marketing officer Amanda Cosco (a former BetaKit contributor) said Halt AI was created around the time a former Facebook product manager and whistleblower revealed internal research on the media site social last year. Facebook data reportedly showed Instagram makes teenage girls worse off in their bodies and blames the platform for anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

“We’ve found that advertising and visual content have such a big impact in our world,” Cosco told BetaKit. “When you’re a consumer-facing business and you have a product that lives in the world, you should be able to market it to everyone, but you also want to make sure your advertising isn’t exclusive to communities of color.”

Halt AI Diversity Analytics Dashboard.

Both Cosco and co-founder Roya Sedigh hail from ModiFace, a beauty tech company that develops augmented reality apps for the beauty and medical industries. ModiFace CEO Parhaam Aarabi is one of Halt AI’s advisors along with James Farmer, former diversity and inclusion manager at Amazon Alexa AI.

ModiFace was acquired by L’Oreal in 2018 and partnered with Amazon in 2020 to allow shoppers to digitally try on makeup products available on Amazon Canada.

True to ModiFace’s roots, Halt AI first tackled the fashion industry. The sector also made sense given Cosco’s background as a fashion journalist and how clothing brands rely heavily on producing visual content to market their wares. Halt AI’s database provides detailed analytics on over 500 fashion brands, influencers and retailers.

As it looks to go beyond fashion and beauty, Cosco noted that Halt AI’s goal is to be able to provide benchmarking tools for different industries, such as retail,… food and drink, as well as medicine.

With the Halt AI platform, brands are also able to track their progress in integrating diversity and inclusion over the years. “A brand may have represented itself in a certain way, but then made efforts to be inclusive and you can actually measure those efforts to prove whether or not they live up to those assertions,” Cosco said.

Toronto is also home to other startups that provide diversity analytics, such as Diversio, which focuses on a company’s hiring and recruiting processes to measure its internal EDI metrics.

RELATED: Diversio secures C$8.13 million to improve corporate diversity and inclusion

Cosco noted that most companies focused on diversity and inclusion efforts play into their hiring and recruiting space; Halt AI wants to bring this to the brand level.

“People get attached to the idea of ​​diversity, without really… understanding what it is or acknowledging the different aspects of it,” Cosco noted. “Our tool kind of allows them to do that.”

Image courtesy of Halt AI

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