Facebook improves AI photo descriptions for the visually impaired

Ruben Fields
January 23, 2021

Descriptions will also be more detailed, and AAT will be able to identify activities, landmarks, types of animals, and more. This system helps in generating the description of any image. "Our users can read and understand the description quickly - and it lends itself to translation so all the alt text descriptions are available in 45 different languages, ensuring that AAT is useful to people around the world", Facebook explained in a blog post. The social networking giant has now unveiled the "next generation of AAT", which brings multiple technological advances to further improve the photo experience for blind or visually impaired users. Facebook introduced the Automatic Alt Text system back in 2016, and since then, there have been many advancements in the field of AI-generated image captions. The latest improvements to AAT signify a big leap for accessibility on the social network for the visually impaired.

In an apparent industry first, Facebook even makes it possible to include details of positional location and relative size of elements in a picture.

Most people are able to instantly see what's in images when you post on social media. "So instead of describing the contents of a photo as "May be an image of 5 people", we can specify that there are two people in the center of the photo and three others scattered toward the fringes, implying that the two in the center are the focus," Facebook adds. It has also been improved to highlight an object that is larger in the photo as the primary object.

The new object detection system can also recognise the number of people and where they are in the frame.

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Facebook says it used weak supervision based on billions of Instagram photos and their hashtags for the latest version of AAT.

Facebook subsidiary Instagram in 2018 took steps to become more accessible, embracing object recognition technology that automatically identifies items in a photo and creates an audible description.

From now on, photos published on these platforms will be equipped with a better description that will help blind and visually impaired people.

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