Facebook rolls out AI-based technology for visually-impaired
Facebook began using the AI-based technology, which recognizes and describes the posted pictures aloud, for its visually-challenged users. Currently, the feature is available on iOS mobile devices for users in Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand in the English language. Matt King, Accessibility Specialist-Facebook, said that the social giant would soon roll out the feature in other OS platforms in more languages soon.
Facebook had announced that it would develop technology for those who can't use the regular computers or touch screens to use the social network. Some users access Facebook from outside using some tools or apps built for the disabled. After analyzing that a portion of its audience with disabilities was being underserved, Facebook had gathered a team of thinkers to put empathy into engineering.
Facebook had announced that they were working on a recognition tool based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), to help its visually-impaired users. The tool would help blind people to get an idea of what is in a photo, which they come across on Facebook. The tool, according to Facebook, would enable users to interact and ask questions about a picture and also comment on it.
Matt King, a software engineer, had joined Facebook in 2014 with a mission to make social networking- apps and websites friendlier for the disabled. He was appointed as an accessibility engineer to create tools that use AI to identify and describe elements to users. Matt was blinded by retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable eye-disease that gradually leads to blindness, and was completely blinded in college.
Social networking is mostly about sharing an image or a video of friends, family or exciting events. The aim behind Facebook's new technology is to remove the barrier to accessibility and let blind people 'see' these images.
Facebook had announced that their new AI technology can describe pictures to its blind audience. In a video-post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had stated that their AI can see a photo, analyze the elements in it and explain it to its users. He added that developing the technology, which was at an early stage, was their goal for making social media accessible to everyone.
Zuckerberg stated: "We see AI as helping computers better understand the world—so they can be more helpful to people. Our AI can now look at a photo, figure out what's in it and help explain it to you."
Jeff Wieland, Head of Accessibility at Facebook, oversaw the new AI-based technology. Jeff along with Ramya Sethuraman, Technical Project Manager-Accessibility, worked to ensure that the technology and services were user-friendly. The Accessibility team had also built an 'Empathy Lab' to help engineers code better by helping them understand how social media could be accessed only through voice-control, without any touch screens, keyboards or mice.