Facebook artificial intelligence technology lets blind people ‘see’ photos

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As the internet becomes dominated by images, Facebook is launching a system which can “read” photos and tell visually impaired people what appears in them using the Artificial Intelligence technology.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), Facebook’s  servers can now decode and describe images uploaded to the site and provide them in a form that can be read out by a screen reader. The new accessibility technology is intended to allow blind and visually-impaired people to share and take part in photos on Facebook.

As the internet is changing from a medium based almost entirely on text to increasingly picture-led, an estimated 1.8 billion images are uploaded every day to social networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The Independent reports that using artificial intelligence, the new tool can recognise the contents of a photo. It won’t immediately be able to do that in great deal – it will read out that a picture includes a “car”, for instance – but because it uses machine learning, it is expected to improve itself as it goes along.

The feature is available now on iOS and will be coming to Android and the web soon.

Facebook says that photos are perhaps the biggest reason for the site’s huge growth, and it hopes that the new feature will allow more of its users to get involved with them. It is the latest in a run of tools intended to open up Facebook’s most popular features, which have also included closed captions for its videos and an option to increase the font size.

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