Sunday 23 October 2016

Facebook to describe photos to blind users

Daniel Anderson

Published 05/04/2016 | 09:22


Facebook is rolling out a bunch of changes which will make the platform more accessible to blind people, by describing the contents of photos

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Users upload more than one billion photos to Facebook everyday, making for a the media rich social experience that most of us are very familiar with. That's makes it very engaging to scroll through the endless news feed, but it also means that users with visual impairment aren't able to interact full with the service.

Now, Facebook is rolling out a new feature which is capable of describing the content of a photo to blind users. The software uses machine learning to analyse images and provide a simple breakdown of what is in them. This process exposes the AI to many different examples of a thing, for example snaps of dogs. The more it sees, the more likely it is to be able to recognise one of our furry friends and as it grows more accurate it is able to decide more specific details within the image.

The information is called 'automatic alternative text' and it reads out descriptions for those who are uses accessibility features, like the iPhone's VoiceOver. For the moment, the feature is only available on the iPhone, but it will also arrive on Android and desktop soon. While this data may be quite simple to begin with - dog instead of dachshund, for example - the AI is expected to learn very quickly, opening up another aspect of Facebook to many users with visual impairment.

Look for the update on all platforms soon.

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