Facebook is such a deeply ingrained part of our daily lives now, connecting 1.5 billion people worldwide. It's where we consume news — from #relatable listicles to hard-hitting journalism — and stay up-to-date with the goings on of our "friends." And the social media platform doesn't want anyone to be left out.
Which includes the blind and visually impaired. Sure, they can use voiceover software and text-to-speech tools to read what people post to their walls, but there's no way for them to see photos that get uploaded.
But now, according to TechCrunch, Facebook is using artificial intelligence and image recognition software to help visually impaired people visualize what's going on in the photos on their screen. The technology will be able to scan an image, recognize what's in it, and describe the contents of that photo.
Matt King, Facebook's first blind engineer, showed Megan Rose Dickey over at TechCrunch how it works:
His friend, Anne, wrote, "Ready for picture day of first grade" accompanied with a photo. Thanks to the object recognition technology Facebook is prototyping, King heard: “This image may contain, colon, one or more people. Child.” Without it, all King would’ve known was that Anne wrote, “Ready for picture day of first grade,” and that she posted a photo — but nothing about what was in the photo.
Facebook has a whole team dedicated to helping people with disabilities experience Facebook seamlessly. If their ultimate goal is to connect the world, everyone must have equal access to the platform.
"I mean, it's the gateway to employment, it's the gateway to opportunity of all different kinds — participating in your government and everything," said King. "So when we can flatten that on-ramp, I see that as the ultimate goal in accessibility and I think that Facebook is really uniquely positioned to help do that. ... It's a way of giving dignity to every person with a disability in the world by helping them get connected to everybody else."
Facebook hopes to release this product by end of the year either to the web or iOS. We're excited to see what doors this will open!
Photo Credit: Getty Images