Facebook’s AI and image recognition technology has improved greatly over the years, where nowadays it is smart enough to be able to detect your friends in photos and offering tag recommendations. Now it seems that Facebook will be leveraging that technology in order to better help its visually impaired users to “see”.
According to Facebook, “We’re always working to make it easier for all people, regardless of ability, to access Facebook, make connections and have more opportunities. Two years ago, we launched an automatic alt-text tool, which describes photos to people with vision loss. Now, with face recognition, people who use screen readers will know who appears in photos in their News Feed even if people aren’t tagged.”
Prior to this, Facebook’s automatic alt-text tool worked by letting users hover their cursors over an image and it would then describe the image to the user, such as the scenery, objects, animals, and so on. Now the system will work better for the visually impaired, where it can let users know which friends are in the photos without the need for them to be tagged.
How this works is that according to Facebook, “Our technology analyzes the pixels in photos you’re already tagged in and generates a string of numbers we call a template. When photos and videos are uploaded to our systems, we compare those images to the template.” In addition to this improvement for the visually impaired, Facebook is also leveraging its facial recognition technology to notify users when photos of them have been uploaded (it is an opt-in feature).