Facebook helps blind people to ‘see’ images

Facebook photo for blind

A system is being launched today by social media giant Facebook, which will allow blind people to ‘see’ photos thanks to the system reading out images to them.

Through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), images which are uploaded to Facebook can be decoded by its servers and then automatically described to users by a screenreader.

People with visual impairments use software called screenreaders to use computers, with the content of a web page being converted into audio or braille. However, only text can be converted so far, with screenreaders unable to ‘read’ images.

The system will let users find out what is contained in an image that has been uploaded, by explaining that there are trees, people or food, for example, to those using a smartphone which has a screenreader.

The technology has already been trained to recognise a number of items, and the software will become increasingly sophisticated as it scans more and more images.
A Facebook engineer, Matt King, who lost his sight because of retinitis pigmentosa, led the technology development. He said: “On Facebook, a lot of what happens is extremely visual. And, as somebody who’s blind, you can really feel like you’re left out of the conversation, like you’re on the outside.”

“Our AI has advanced to the point where it’s practical for us to try to get computers to describe pictures in a meaningful way.”

“This is in its very early stages, but it’s helping us move in the direction of that goal of including ever single person who wants to participate in the conversation,” he continued.

Facebook, which also owns Instagram and a range of other popular apps, sees two billion photos uploaded daily across these apps, so you can see just how significant this development could be for those people who suffer from visual impairments.

Today we’re proud to introduce automatic alternative text, a new feature that provides people who are visually impaired with descriptions of a photo’s content using advancements in object recognition technology. For more info, stop by Facebook Accessibility.

Posted by Facebook on Monday, April 4, 2016

Image and video courtesy of Facebook