Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence will aid the blind to see images

What if the blind could Facebook? But how you would ask, since people with disabilities have been less likely to use Facebook.

Facebook has announced an AI system that is aimed at helping people with severe visual impairments, called the Automatic Alternate Text or automatic alt text. This AI development identifies contents of a photo in a Facebook post, allowing screen readers to describe them as if they were text, and giving visually impaired people a better idea of the contents of the picture in their imagination.

Soon to be launched first as an iOS app, the Automatic alt text identifies objects in Facebook photos, and then uses the iPhone’s VoiceOver feature to read descriptions of the photos out loud to users. The description of the photo is generated using advancements in object recognition technology. This works with people using screen readers, before now people using screen readers only hear the name of the individual who shared an image, followed by the term “photo” when they came upon an image in News Feed, now users who are visually impaired would hear several items a photo may contain as they swipe past the images while on Facebook. For example, it identifies the emotions shown by people inside a photo, whether they’re smiling, for instance also users could also hear things like “Image may contain three people, smiling, outdoors.”

The technology can reliably identify objects

The technology can reliably identify objects in images as well as facial expressions

While still in its early stages, the technology can reliably identify concepts in categoriesFacebook’s AI even though it identifies the objects in the image, does not describe their arrangement and relationships in the scene, future updates should add support for that also. During times when there is no human to explain to the blind the features in a photo, the Automatic Alt Test can help out in its own little way.

Automatic alt text will be launched first on iOS screen readers set to English, but the functionality of other languages and platforms such as Android and web servies will be added later on.


Facebook is an online social networking service headquartered in Menlo Park, California, in the United States. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg with his Harvard College roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities and later to high-school students. Since 2006, anyone who is at least 13 years old was allowed to become a registered user of the website, though the age requirement may be higher depending on applicable local laws. Its name comes from the face book directories often given to American university students.



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