Can You Fool This Nudity-Spotting Algorithm?

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Identifying nudity online is a notoriously thorny issue. Is it bum cheeks or a bent elbow? Renaissance art or porn? Well, now one company that builds algorithms to identify such differences has built a website that you can challenge with your own, um, material.

IsItNude.com is provides much the service its URL would suggest. Feed it an image, and the algorithm will try to determine if you’re offering up full-on nudity or something a little more restrained. The algorithm behind it was created for an unnamed company that wanted to ensure that its website was kid-friendly. Now, the site exists as a standalone item that you can play around with.

According to Wired, the algorithm uses a variety of tricks to spot nudes. It detects patches of skin, but it also uses hand gesture and facial recognition tricks along with smart skin tone identification to try and create a more accurate analysis of exactly what’s on show. While the company behind it, Algorithmia, doesn’t steal your pictures and the results to inform its work, it’s keen to hear from people that find it throwing up spurious results so that it can tweak its algorithms.

And it needs to, because it certainly isn’t perfect yet. Its reliance on skin tone means that black and white images flummox it, for instance, and because it doesn’t identify body parts — you know what we’re talking about — a picture of someone in Speedos or a bikini could end up flagged as obscene. For now, that’s why big sites like Facebook and Instagram still employ people to vet images that are reported as being obscene, rather than allowing a computer to determine what’s on show.

Still, it’s a decent effort at automating a notoriously difficult process. For more nuanced analysis that can sift the confusingly innocent from the subtly smutty, though, we’ll be waiting some time, because while you might be able to determine a work of art from a Playboy centre-fold, computers needs to get a whole lot smarter before than can manage that particular feat. [Is It Nude? via Wired]