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Toronto engineer develops app that can diagnose skin cancer for free using AI analysis


An app designed by a Toronto engineer could soon offer Canadians free diagnoses for a lengthy list of skin ailments without having to leave their homes using real-time artificial intelligence analysis.

Skin CheckUp is the brainchild of Harsh Shah, a machine learning engineer living in Toronto whose previous projects include developing prediction models for tech giants like Tesla and General Motors.

“On average, Canadians wait 90 days for an initial consultation with a dermatologist,” Shah, 31, told CTV News Toronto in an interview Tuesday. “It just doesn’t suffice.”

The software, launched in November, offers detection and diagnosis of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, melanoma, urticaria, acne, and shingles by utilizing AI detection and machine learning.

Initial diagnoses, issued via a PDF, will be offered free of charge. The application then offers virtual consultations with certified dermatologists and dietitions in users’ areas for a fee, if they choose.

The software is inclusive and trained for all skin types and colours, Shah said. “Because the skin colour will change the physical characteristics of the ailment.”

Shah said he was inspired to create the platform after a family history with autoimmune disorders and skin ailments stretching back generations.

“I’ve seen my grandmother struggle with it for years, so that was something which I was very forceful and passionate to solve,” he said. "My family in India actually started a natural hospital to treat skin ailments 20 years ago now."

Skin CheckUp uses a deep learning network to analyze video on a live capture basis, Shah explained.

“As soon as you switch on the app, the camera will start detection, you don't have to send a picture or video, so the user can go through each and every part of their body and it's able to detect real-time,” he said.

The project is still in its early phases. Shah is currently in the process of obtaining regulatory approval for the app, which would allow him to offer it to Canadians. He says this process usually takes about three months, after which he is planning to deploy the software.

In June, Shah had the opportunity to present the concept at Collision, a tech conference hosted annually in Toronto.

“We met so many potential investors, it was very encouraging for a small startup like us to get this advantage while still in the regulatory application process,” he said.

Shah has also designed and created a wearable augmented reality tool, dubbed Skin Assistant Monocle, or SAM, to help general physicians diagnose complex skin ailments. He will soon apply for regulatory approval for this project as well, he says, after meeting officials with Ontario's Ministry of Innovation at last month's conference. 

In April, another Toronto scientist working on the use of machine learning in health care, Rahul Krishnan, was awarded $85,000 by Amazon to put towards his research. Top Stories

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