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Kairos developing ‘Bias API’ to address unequal biometrics performance as founder Brackeen returns



Brian Brackeen will chair the Scientific Advisory Board of Kairos, the company he founded before a sensational departure, and has directed the company to focus on building a ‘Bias API’ to enable firms to detect and address inequity in their biometric systems, according to a company blog post.

In his new role with the company, Brackeen will apply his algorithmic bias expertise to helping the company eliminate racial bias from facial recognition, the post says.

Kairos’ commitment to not sell its face biometrics to police until bias concerns were fully addressed was relatively early to what has become a trend of apparent self-restraint, and was even bound up in the battle over Brackeen’s departure.

“We are delighted to have Brian back at the company, now more than ever the world needs to address fairness and inclusiveness in AI and Kairos continues its mission with Brian on board to deliver bias free face recognition software to the world,” comments Kairos Chairman E. Jay Saunders. “We look forward to having his insights and working with Brian to grow the company worldwide.”

Brackeen is General Partner at Lightship Capital, which he founded along with his wife to support underrepresented entrepreneurs.

“In my first action in this role, I’ve directed the company to focus on a new API— the ‘Bias API,’ which will allow firms all over the world to detect and fix biases in their algorithms,” states Brackeen. “We intend to do deals with the big players like AWS, Google Cloud, and others to expose our service in their clouds to their customers, as well. Kairos will cement its place as a leader in this space, right at the correct time. We have learned so much over the last nearly 10 years, it’s time to use that knowledge for good beyond Kairos’ walls.”

The company has released biometrics products for retail analytics, but also continued to go through dramatic turnover, apparently, with all employees and board members involved in what the blog post refers to as “the 2018 disruption” now gone. TechCrunch notes this includes former CEO Melissa Doval and COO Mary Wolff, and it presumably also includes former Board Chair Steve O’Hara.

Brackeen departed the company amid legal challenges between himself and the company’s new leadership in 2018, during which Brackeen characterized the dispute to Biometric Update as a classic corporate coup. The lawsuits were settled in 2019, with all claims being dropped.

Doval told Biometric Update when Saunders invested $4 million in Kairos that the company would maintain its focus on ethical technology and reducing racial bias in AI under her leadership.

“As a society, bias can be found in everything from Twitter image cropping to air dryers not turning on for Black hands,” Brackeen tells TechCrunch. “It’s a painful reminder of a society that’s not fair for all. The challenge is that as AI gets to be imbedded in more and more products, we will see bias in all kinds of products. Kairos with its large data set and years of IP, must be the firm that saves us from that dystopian future. I am uniquely situated to lead that strategy.”

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