Facebook – Training Computers to Describe for the Visually Impaired

Facebook is doing more humanitarian efforts; while it was already made clear that they are trying to bring Internet connectivity to the world by use of the social media’s Free Basics program, they are now training their computers to become seeing-eye guides for the visually impaired as well as for the blind.

Facebook - Training Computers to Describe for the Visually Impaired

Facebook Helps the Blind and Visually Impaired to Enjoy More of the Social Media

This particular feature will be rolled out on the iPad and iPhone versions of Facebook. Using said feature will interpret what’s in a picture with a type of artificial intelligence that will be able to recognize faces and objects. To take advantage of this, the VoiceOver feature for the iPhone or iPad, which is a screen reader, must be turned for the photo descriptions to be read within the social media app. At the moment, the feature is only available for the English language.

Up until now, people would have to rely on screen readers on the social networking app to hear that a person had shared a photo. Any other explanation beyond that is non-existent, until now of course. The photo descriptions will initially be confined to a vocabulary of 100-words. This is a restriction to prevent the computer from exploring and providing a lot of details (which would otherwise cause an issue in terms of privacy).

For example, the reader may only tell a user that a photo has three people within the image and are smiling. It can also tell that the people within the photograph are located outdoors. Even though that these people are holding drinks in their hand, the automated voice may not include that in the description.

The technology will be called Facebook’s automatic alternative text, and it is an attempt to avoid making mistakes that would otherwise offend its desired audience (other than what Tay, Microsoft’s failed attempt for a teenage chat bot, did). As much as possible, the vocabulary that is placed within the feature will be as neutral as possible. Google learned it the hard way last year as it called a black couple to be gorillas, which then prompted the search engine giant to issue an immediate apology.

Aside from being available for the iOS platform, Facebook also plans to turn the feature on for Android devices. They also plan to have the technology towards social media platform’s desktop version as well. The firm is trying to ensure that the nearly 300-million blind and visually impaired population of the world will be able to stay interested in the social network.

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