‘Dr Google’ AI dermatologist can diagnose 288 skin conditions in virtual clinic

Google has announced new artificial intelligence technology will be able to diagnose users' skin problems at home.

The tech giant says its new dermatology feature will give a whole new meaning to 'Dr. Google' by diagnosing up to 288 skin ailments based on photos.

According to Google's blog, each year over ten billion searches are made on the engine for information on skin, hair, and nails issues as two billion people suffer from dermatologic issues globally.

The answer to a shortage of specialists – Google says – is an online tool which asks questions about a 'patient's' skin type and symptoms and then analyse images of their concerned area.

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer of Google and a former assistant secretary of health under Barack Obama, said that the proposed tool could list possible diagnoses matching the photo submitted, The Science Times reports.

The Google blog post which was published on Tuesday reads: "Our AI-powered dermatology assist tool is a web-based application that we hope to launch as a pilot later this year, to make it easier to figure out what might be going on with your skin.

"Once you launch the tool, simply use your phone’s camera to take three images of the skin, hair or nail concern from different angles.

"You’ll then be asked questions about your skin type, how long you’ve had the issue and other symptoms that help the tool narrow down the possibilities.

"The AI model analyzes this information and draws from its knowledge of 288 conditions to give you a list of possible matching conditions that you can then research further."

Google added that no matter how advanced their new AI tool is, it should not be used instead of professional help.

The blog says: "The tool is not intended to provide a diagnosis nor be a substitute for medical advice as many conditions require clinician review, in-person examination, or additional testing like a biopsy.

"Rather we hope it gives you access to authoritative information so you can make a more informed decision about your next step."

It has taken Google three years of machine learning research and product development to build the technology, to the point of rolling it out as a pilot, the company explained.

The most recent of studies by Google's researchers was published in the JAMA Network, showing how non-specialist doctors can use AI-based tools to improve their ability to interpret skin conditions.

Google claims their peer-reviewed papers validate the AI model which people can already register their interest for.

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