Facebook Is Using Artificial Intelligence To Help Blind People 'See' Images

Facebook Is Using Artificial Intelligence To Help Blind People 'See' Images

April 8, 2016

Every day, people share more than 2 billion photos across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

But while sharing photos is a fun way of sharing what’s on your mind, blind or vision impaired Facebook users have been excluded from experiencing them – until now.

Last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a tool which can tell people who use screen readers what’s in a photo.

Screen readers are software programmes which read text out loud, allowing millions of blind or visually impaired people.

"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," Facebook's Shaomei Wu, Hermes Pique, and Jeffrey Wieland, said in an online post, late Monday.

Previously, when using screen readers on Facebook, users would only hear the name of the person who shared the photo followed by the term “photo”.

But now people who use screen readers on iOS devices will also hear a list of items a photo may contain as they swipe past photos on Facebook.For example, someone could hear “Image may contain “tree, sky, outdoors”, giving them an idea of what’s in the photo.

“You just think about how much of your news feed is visual — and most of it probably — and so often people will make a comment about a photo or they’ll say something about it when they post it, but they won’t really tell you what is in the photo,” Matt King, Facebook’s first blind engineer.

"We want to build technology that helps the blind community experience Facebook the same way others enjoy it."

According to Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, this new technology is a crucial component of Facebook's push to make their service accessible to everyone, "This is a great use of AI technology, and it's an important step towards making sure everyone has equal access to information and is included in the conversation."

We couldn’t agree more.

To learn more, check out this post on Facebook’s accessibility page here

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