Explainable AI: 5 Open-Source Tools You Should Know

eamesBot / Shutterstock

Explainable AI refers to ways of ensuring that the results and outputs of artificial intelligence (AI) can be understood by humans. It contrasts with the concept of the “black box” AI, which produces answers with no explanation or understanding of how it arrived at them.

Explainable AI tools are software and systems that provide transparency into how an AI algorithm reaches its decisions. These tools aim to make AI’s decision-making process understandable to humans, thus enhancing trust and enabling better control and fine-tuning of AI systems. They are essential in many industries, such as healthcare, finance, and autonomous vehicles, where understanding the decision-making process is as important as the decision itself.

Explainable AI is not only about understanding how an AI system has arrived at a particular decision. It is also about accountability, trust, and the ability to correct or improve the system. As AI systems become more ingrained in our lives, the transparency provided by explainable AI tools will become increasingly crucial.

Open Source Tools and Frameworks for Explainable AI


The Explainable AI Toolkit (XAITK) is a comprehensive suite of tools designed to aid users, developers, and researchers in understanding and analyzing complex machine learning models.

Here’s an overview of XAITK features and capabilities:

  • Analytics Tools: Features tools like the After Action Review for AI (AARfAI), which enhances domain experts’ ability to systematically analyze AI’s reasoning processes.
  • Bayesian Teaching for XAI: Incorporates a human-centered framework based on cognitive science, applicable in various domains like image classification and medical diagnosis.
  • Counterfactual Explanations: Provides frameworks for generating counterfactual explanations, particularly useful in enhancing human-machine teaming.
  • Datasets with Multimodal Explanations: Offers datasets for activity recognition and visual question answering, complete with multimodal explanations.
  • Misinformation Detection: Includes research tools for understanding and combating the spread of misinformation through XAI-assisted platforms.
  • Natural Language Explanations and Psychological Models: Provides methods for generating natural language explanations for image classification and technical reports on explanatory reasoning models.

SHAP (Shapley Additive Explanations) is a method widely used in machine learning and AI for interpreting predictions of ML models. It stands out as a versatile and popular tool in the domain of explainable AI (XAI), offering insights into the predictions of various models.

Key features of SHAP include:

  • Shapley Values: Measure the average marginal contribution of a feature in a dataset across all possible combinations.
  • Marginal Contribution Calculation: Evaluating all possible combinations or ‘coalitions’ a feature can participate in within a dataset.
  • Interpreting Complex Models: SHAP effectively handles models with a large number of features, including discrete and continuous variables.

Local Interpretable Model-agnostic Explanations (LIME) is a tool used in the field of explainable AI (XAI) to provide understandable explanations for the predictions made by complex machine learning models.

Here are LIME’s key features:

  • Model-Agnostic Capability: LIME can be applied to any machine learning model, regardless of its internal workings or complexity.
  • Local Explanation: LIME focuses on providing explanations for individual predictions, making the insights highly specific and relevant to the given instance.
  • Interpretable Proxy Models: LIME generates simpler models (like linear models) that approximate the complex model’s behavior around the prediction to be explained.
  • Feature Importance: LIME provides quantitative measures of the impact of each feature on the prediction, known as feature importance scores.
  • Customization and Configuration: Users can configure and tune various aspects of LIME, such as the choice of the surrogate model and the sampling strategy.
4. ELI5

ELI5, short for “Explain Like I’m 5,” is a Python library designed for visualizing and debugging machine learning models, providing a unified API to explain and interpret predictions from various models.

Here’s an overview of ELI5’s features:

  • Unified API for ML Model Explanation: Offers a consistent and user-friendly API to interpret and debug a wide range of machine learning models.
  • Visualization and Debugging: Provides tools for visualizing machine learning models, making it easier to understand and debug them. It also allows visualization of features impacting model predictions.
  • Built-in Support for Multiple ML Frameworks: Integrates seamlessly with several major machine learning frameworks and packages.
5. InterpretML

InterpretML is an innovative open-source package designed to bring advanced interpretability techniques in machine learning under a single umbrella. It offers a comprehensive approach to understanding both glassbox models and blackbox systems.

Key features of InterpretML include:

  • Unified Framework for Model Interpretability: Integrates various state-of-the-art machine learning interpretability techniques.
  • Understanding Model Behavior: Offers insights into individual predictions, explaining the reasons behind specific outcomes.
  • Ease of Use: Accessible through an open unified API set, making it user-friendly.
  • Flexibility and Customizability: Offers a wide range of explainers and techniques with interactive visuals.
  • Comprehensive Capabilities: Enables exploration of model attributes such as performance, global, and local features.

How to Choose Explainable AI Tools

Understand Your Objective for Explainability

The first step in the selection process is to clearly understand your objective for explainability. This means identifying the specific reasons why you need transparency in your AI systems. These could range from regulatory requirements, the need for user trust, the need for system improvement, or simply the ethical requirement for transparency.

Understanding your explainability objectives will guide your selection of tools. For example, if your primary requirement is for regulatory compliance, you may need tools that provide detailed documentation of the AI’s decision-making process. On the other hand, if your objective is to improve user trust, you might need tools that offer intuitive, easy-to-understand visual explanations.

Consider the Type of Machine Learning Model

The type of machine learning model you are using also plays a crucial role in the selection of explainable AI tools. Some tools are designed for specific types of models. For instance, certain tools might be better suited for deep learning models, while others might work best with decision tree models.

Moreover, some models are inherently more explainable than others. For example, linear regression models are generally more interpretable than neural networks. Therefore, understanding your machine learning model will allow you to choose the most suitable explainable AI tools.

Performance and Scalability

Performance and scalability are two more factors that you need to consider. The explainable AI tool you choose should not only be able to handle your current needs but should also be scalable to meet your future requirements.

Performance refers to the tool’s ability to provide explanations quickly and efficiently. If the tool is slow or inefficient, it can become a bottleneck in your AI system, impacting its overall performance.

Scalability refers to the tool’s ability to handle increasing amounts of data and complexity as your AI system grows. A tool that works well with a small data set or a simple model may not perform as well when the data or model complexity increases.

Visualization and Reporting Capabilities

Visualization and reporting capabilities are another crucial aspect of explainable AI tools. These features enable you to visualize the decision-making process of your AI system and generate reports that provide detailed explanations of the decisions.

Good visualization capabilities allow you to intuitively understand the relationships and patterns in the data that the AI system is using to make decisions. They can help you identify any biases in the system and understand its strengths and weaknesses.

Reporting capabilities provide detailed documentation of the AI system’s decision-making process. This can be crucial for regulatory compliance and for improving the system.

In conclusion, explainable AI is an essential aspect of any AI system. Choosing the right tools for explainability requires a clear understanding of your objectives, careful consideration of the type of machine learning model, performance and scalability needs, visualization and reporting capabilities, and user-friendliness and community support.

Share this post

Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Oracle, Zend, CheckPoint and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Gilad is a two-time winner of international technical communication awards, including the STC Trans-European Merit Award and the STC Silicon Valley Award of Excellence. Over the past two decades he has written over 70 technical books, white papers and guides spanning over 5,000 pages, in numerous technology sectors from network equipment to CRM software to chip manufacturing. Over the past seven years Gilad has headed Agile SEO, which performs strategic search marketing for leading technology brands. Together with his team, Gilad has done market research, developer relations and content strategy in 39 technology markets, lending him a broad perspective on trends, approaches and ecosystems across the tech industry. Gilad holds a B.Sc. in economics from Tel Aviv University, and has a keen interest in psychology, Jewish spirituality, practical philosophy and their connection to business, innovation, and technology.

scroll to top