Facebook Uses AI to Help People Who Are Blind 'See' Images

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Facebook is using artificial intelligence to make it easier for people who are blind to "see" who and what is in photos.


According to Facebook, over 2 billion photos are shared daily across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Since people who are blind or have low vision face challenges when it comes to consuming visual content, they often feel excluded. But Facebook is trying to change that with the use of AI.

Facebook's automatic alt-text feature generates a description of what is in a photo using advancements in object recognition technology. People using screen readers on iOS devices hear a list of items a photo contains as they swipe through photos, whereas prior to the automatic alt-text feature, only the name of the person who shared the photo, followed by the term "photo" was announced.


In addition, Facebook's face recognition features help people with vision loss to know more about who is in their photos.

"We want anyone to be able to connect using Facebook," Matt King, Accessibility Specialist at Facebook told Techwalla. "One challenge we face is that much of the conversation happening on Facebook is via visuals, like photos and video ... Today, these artificial intelligence tools are generating descriptions that are pretty rudimentary, yet they are already starting to bridge communication gaps between people with disabilities and communities that are important to them. As this technology matures, we believe it can make visual experiences as rich and enjoyable for people who can't see as they are for others."

The strides companies like Facebook are making toward the future of tech accessibility are encouraging.