Social media is largely a visual venue, and at times may alienate those who have visual impairments. But Facebook is making its platform more inclusive, as it recently began testing artificial intelligence (AI) to help those with visual impairment enjoy the website.
The technology will use a “neural network” taught to recognize things in pictures using millions of examples. Facebook is a good platform to experiment on, as two billion photos are shared on the platform, along with other platforms it acquired, like Instagram and WhatsApp, and its standalone Messenger app.
Facebook is slowly testing the machine-learning technology that can recognize objects and describe them aloud. The company isn’t in a hurry to roll out this technology as it wants to avoid potentially offensive or embarrassing mistakes when describing photos.
To date, the platform is being tested on mobile devices running on iOS and which has screen readers set to English, but it will explore other operating systems and languages in the future.
According to accessibility specialist Matt King, who lost his vision in college:
As Facebook becomes an increasingly visual experience, we hope our new automatic alternative text technology will help the blind community experience Facebook the same way others enjoy it. While this technology is still nascent, 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.
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