It’s difficult to imagine Facebook without photos, and the social media giant is ensuring that everyone is able to see photos posted by users — including those with visual impairments. Facebook is rolling out a feature called ‘Automatic Alternative Text’ (AAT), which essentially describes an image to help such users ‘see’ photos. The feature though is currently restricted to Facebook’s iOS app. Also Read - Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram account can get deleted if you do this
With the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Facebook app will describe what’s in an image, so that these users will be able to imagine what the photo may look like. So for example, instead of just reading out the name of the user who shared the image, now Facebook will say something like, “image may contain three users, smiling, outdoors.” Also Read - Facebook smartwatch to feature cameras alongside fitness functions: Yes, detachable cameras!
Facebook says that iOS users who have screen readers enabled on their device, will be able to use the new AAT feature. According to reports, this new feature is quite reliable and can identify stuff like car, boat, snow, sunset, sushi, baby, smiling and beard among others. It can also reliably identify a selfie. Also Read - What happens to your Facebook account after you die?
The company says that the new AAT feature is possible, because of Facebook’s neural network-based object recognition technology. This network, Facebook says, has ‘billions of parameters and is trained with millions of examples’.
Facebook’s AAT feature is only available in English and restricted to the iOS app for now. It is being rolled out in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the company says that it will soon be rolling out in more countries, and also support more languages.
At BUILD 2016, Microsoft too showcased its own technology that will help the blind see the world around them. Called the Seeing AI app, it uses the smartphone camera or a pair of smart glasses to identify and describe objects, people and even emotions around a blind person.