Facebook Inc (FB) Rolls out Feature to Help Blind Users “See” Photos

Facebook AI Research

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has made a huge step in encompassing all of its users by making the app accessible to blind users.

The app has been fitted with an artificial intelligence tool which can read and explain what is on the screen and employ visually impaired users.

This implies that blind Facebook users are now able to see, photos posted on the social media network, by hearing the audio descriptions of the pictures via a screen reader application. The feature is available on iOS devices. The process makes use of the object recognition technology and analyzes the images and describes what is seen in them. The description is then read aloud. This whole process is called the automatic alternative text by Facebook.

On April 4th, Facebook made an announcement to reveal the new feature on iOS. “While visual content provides a fun and expressive way for people to communicate online, consuming and creating it poses challenges for people who are blind or severely visually impaired,” according to Facebook. “With more than 39 million people who are blind and over 246 million who have a severe visual impairment, many people may feel excluded from the conversation around photos on Facebook.”

And that is where their feature comes in. The automatic alternative text feature can generate a description using the advanced technology in object recognition technology. The visually impaired can hear a description of all the list of items that may be contained in the photo as they browse through photos on Facebook. The description can provide enough details that then allows blind users to “see” that what they can’t literally see with their eyes.

Facebook is going to launch the feature initially for users in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with future launches in other countries planned. The company also plans on including other languages and also incorporating other platforms in the near future. “While this technology is still nascent, tapping its current capabilities to describe photos is a major step toward providing our visually impaired community the same benefits and enjoyment that everyone else gets from photos,” the company announced.

According to an analyst who is well versed in artificial intelligence, what Facebook is doing, allowing blind users of the social network to access photos is wonderful. Andrew Johnson, a Gartner analyst, hopes the trend extends to the rest of the Web also.

There is an existing app already on the Apple Store, Aipoly Vision, which captures and identifies images and sends them back to users through the use of object recognition.

The main of high-tech devices is to give visually impaired users greater freedom, independence and freedom to maneuver their way through everyday surroundings and life.