Google is launching an AI-powered tool that will assist consumers in self-diagnosing hundreds of skin conditions based on images uploaded by the patients themselves.

‘Derm Assist’ is the first of its kind and will launch in Europe this year before being aimed at the nearly 2bn people globally suffering from skin conditions ranging from acne to melanoma.

The AI tool can recognise 288 skin conditions but is not designed to be a substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment, the tech giant said.

It has taken three years to develop, and has been trained on a dataset of 65,000 images of diagnosed conditions, as well as millions of images showing marks people were concerned about, and thousands of pictures of healthy skin, in all shades and tones.

Users will have to sign into their Google accounts, upload images of their medical condition via the Derm Assist website and answer a series of questions about their symptoms.

An AI model then analyses the information and generates a list of possible matching conditions. The service will be free to all internet users, whether they are Google users or not.

“The tool is not intended to provide a diagnosis…rather we hope it gives you access to authoritative information so you can make a more informed decision about your next step,” Google said.

Google chose dermatology as its first target for AI-driven healthcare because of the huge numbers of people affected by skin conditions. Roughly 10bn Google searches are done each year related to skin, nail and hair issues, and studies have shown that people only diagnose themselves correctly 13% of the time, the search giant said.

Although the tool remains in the pilot stages in the US and has not been evaluated by the US FDA for safety or efficacy, Google has received approval from European regulators to market it as a low-risk medical device, enabling the tech giant to release it to some consumers as part of Google search later this year.