Facebook has launched a new feature which uses artificial intelligence to describe photos to blind and visually impaired users.
The feature uses object recognition technology to describe photos using key words and is now available for Facebook users on iOS.
Facebook’s Accessibility team explained the technology:
Automatic alternative text, or automatic alt text, is a new feature that generates a description of a photo through object recognition technology for someone who cannot see the photo. Before today, people who are visually impaired could only hear the name of the person who posted the photo as they scrolled past photos on Facebook. Now, if they’re using a screen reader on iOS, they’ll hear a richer description of the photo thanks to automatic alt text. For example, for a group photo on the beach, a person using a screen reader on iOS would now hear, ‘This image may contain: Three people, smiling, outdoors.’
Facebook said the feature will roll out in English ‘over the next few weeks,’ with support for additional languages and platforms coming soon.
The Facebook Accessibility team continued:
Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected, and that means everyone, including the visually impaired community. Worldwide, more than 39 million people are blind, and over 246 million have a severe visual impairment. While this technology is still in its early stages, tapping its current capabilities to describe photos is a huge step toward providing our visually impaired community the same benefits and enjoyment that everyone else gets from photos. As Facebook becomes an increasingly visual experience, we hope our new automatic alt text technology will help the visually impaired community experience Facebook the same way others enjoy it.
Readers: Are you excited about this new technology?