Facebook launches technology for blind users to describe photos
Facebook has launched a software, Automatic Alternative Text, for blind and visually impaired folks to “see” photos on the site. For people using screen readers to determine what’s displayed, Automatic Alternative Text uses object realization technology to generate descriptions of pictures on facebook. Voice Over, a screen reader developed into the software powering the iPhone and iPad, must be turned on for Facebook’s photo descriptions to be read. For now, the feature will only be available in English. This tool, led by Facebook’s accessibility team , has been several months in the making.
Until now, people depending on screen reader on Facebook would only hear that a person had shared a photo without any expansion.
The photo descriptions at the beginning might be confined to a vocabulary of 100 phrases in a restriction on the way to prevent the computer from providing a lot of details.For instance, the automated voice could best inform a user For instance, the automated voice could best inform a user that a photo features three men and women smiling outdoors without including that the trio also has drinks in their hands. Or it should say the picture is of pizza without adding that there’s pepperoni and olives on top of it.
Facebook is being cautious with the technology, called “automatic alternative text,” in an attempt to avoid making a mistake that hurts its viewers.Google learned the risks of automation last year when an image recognition feature in its Photos app labeled a black couple as gorillas, prompting the company to issue an apology.
In Facebook’s technology for “automatic alternative text,” it recognizes images and words in transportation (“car,” “boat,” “motorcycle,” etc.), nature (“outdoor,” “mountain,” “wave,” “sun,” “grass,” etc.), sports (‘tennis,” “swimming,” ‘stadium,” etc.) food (“ice cream,” “sushi,” “dessert,” etc.) and descriptive words for appearance (“baby,” “eyeglasses,” “smiling,” “jewelry,” “selfie,” etc.).
The Menlo Park, California, company is trying to make sure the world’s nearly 300 million blind and visually impaired people stay eager about its social community as a steadily increasing number of photos appear on its service. On an average day, Facebook says more than 2 billion photos are posted on its social network and other apps that it owns, a list that includes Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.