Visually Impaired Facebook Employee is Developing Technology for Blind Users

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A visually impaired Facebook employee is developing a technology using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to verbalize the content of an image or video for blind people to visualize and determine appropriate content for people and advertisers.

Facebook engineer Matt King is leading a project, which is focused on developing solutions for visually impaired people to identify images and videos that violate Facebook’s terms of use or that advertisers want to avoid. King, who was born with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, lost his vision by the time he got his degree. At Facebook, he is helping people with disabilities to use the platform such as adding captions to videos or coming up with ways to navigate the site using only audio cues. “Anybody who has any kind of disability can benefit from Facebook. They can develop beneficial connections and understand their disability doesn’t have to define them, to limit them,” said King said.

One of the main project is ‘automated alt-text’, which describes audibly in Facebook images. When automated alt-text was launched in April 2016, it was only available in five languages on the iOS app. Today it is available in over 29 languages on Facebook on the web, iOS and Android. “The things people post most frequently kind of has a limited vocabulary associated with it,” the Facebook engineer said. “It makes it possible for us to have one of those situations where if you can tackle 20 per cent of the solution, it tackles 80 per cent of the problem. It’s getting that last 20 per cent which is a lot of work, but we’re getting there,” he said.

According to Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Market report published by Coherent Market Insights, Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to creation of unique systems with the help of algorithms and software that can perform certain tasks without human intervention and instructions. Artificial intelligence comprises integration of several technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, reasoning and perception. In December 2017, Facebook pushed an automatic alt-text update that used facial recognition to help visually impaired people find out people in photos.


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