Pinterest's new computer vision-powered body type technology to make search more inclusive

Pinterest today announced it's introducing novel computer vision technology that will use shape, size and form to identify various body types across the more than 5 billion images on its platform, with the goal of making its search more inclusive. The company says the patent-pending technology will be used to shape its algorithms, allowing Pinterest users to see more diverse search results that include different body shapes. The feature will initially roll out to searches for women's fashion and wedding content before being expanded more broadly.

The company noted that body size discrimination harmed 34 million Americans in 2019, according to data from the Campaign for Size Freedom, even though one-third of the world's population is plus-size. This discrimination impacts all aspects of daily life, it stated.

"The discrimination denies people necessary medical treatment, leads to financial inequality and creates serious mental health challenges," said Megan D'Alessio, manager of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest. "People suffer even more when this injustice is intertwined with systemic racism, sexism and other efforts," she added. "For example, a 2022 study found that while body dissatisfaction is prevalent for young people, regardless of gender, on average, 50% of adolescent girls are unhappy with their bodies compared to 31% of boys."

Image Credits: Pinterest

Pinterest worked with experts both inside and outside the company to develop the tech, including the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), which has been working to address body size discrimination in the workplace and places of public accommodation. In addition, model and size advocate Tess Holliday and Pinterest creators Natalie Craig, Kellie Brown and Stefany Brito acted as consultants on the new feature.

With the new technology, Pinterest estimates it will improve the representation of different bodies by 454% on women's fashion-related searches in the U.S.

The addition builds on other inclusive products Pinterest has developed in prior years, including the idea to offer a skin tone ranges tool that allowed users to better refine their beauty searches. And, in 2020, it integrated the skin tone ranges into AR try-on in beauty for lipsticks and eyeshadows. The following year, Pinterest also introduced a hair pattern search which allowed users to refine their searches for hair inspirations. This feature has since expanded into more markets, including Indonesia, India and Netherlands. Pinterest also expanded it to more languages including Spanish, French and German.

The addition follows the increased public interest in social media's impacts and harms on teens, including in particular the body image issues that may affect teen girls' mental health. In 2021, The Wall St. Journal discovered Meta internal research that indicated it understood Instagram's impact on teens' mental health, for example. Congress had previously questioned the social networking tech giant about the matter, but legislation is still being debated. Pinterest, meanwhile, isn't waiting for regulation to address the topic, it seems, given the new tech's launch.

Pinterest says the new body type technology will work in tandem with these other advances, presenting more diverse search results for things like "date night looks," "fall fashion" and "wedding inspiration," among other terms.