World’s most popular social media service, Facebook, on Monday began using artificial intelligence to help users who are blind or have visual impairments “see” photos by describing what’s in them.
The feature, called “automatic alternative text”, uses image recognition technology developed through machine-learning to identify the objects pictured.
The tool was requested by users with visual impairments frustrated that they were excluded from the conversation surrounding photos in their News Feed.
Until now, when blind users were checking their Facebook news feed and came across an image, they would only hear the word “photo” and the name of the person who shared it, which left the user still dependent on friends and family to interpret an image.
The feature is being rolled out to iOS users for now, and a Facebook executive said the feature will come to other platforms in the near future.
“We really want to start with a set of concepts that frequently appear in photos that add a lot of value to the narrative of the photo,” Jeff Wieland, Facebook’s head of accessibility, told USA TODAY.
Facebook thinks the system could go along way to including the world’s 39 million blind people and 246 million people with severe visual impairment in conversations about photos on Facebook.