PARK, Calif. (AP) -- Facebook is training its computers to become seeing-eye
guides for blind and visually impaired people as they scroll through the
pictures posted on the world's largest online social network.
feature rolling out Tuesday on Facebook's iPhone and iPad apps interprets
what's in a picture using a form of artificial intelligence that recognizes
faces and objects. VoiceOver, a screen reader built into the software powering
the iPhone and iPad, must be turned on for Facebook's photo descriptions to be
read. For now, the feature will only be available in English.
now, people relying on screen readers on Facebook would only hear that a person
had shared a photo without any elaboration.
photo descriptions initially will be confined to a vocabulary of 100 words in a
restriction that will prevent the computer from providing a lot of details. For
instance, the automated voice may only tell a user that a photo features three
people smiling outdoors without adding that the trio also has drinks in their
hands. Or it may say the photo is of pizza without adding that there's
pepperoni and olives on top of it.
is being careful with the technology, called "automatic alternative
text," in an attempt to avoid making a mistake that offends its audience.
Google learned the risks of automation last year when an image recognition
feature in its Photos app labeled a black couple as gorillas, prompting the
company to issue an apology.