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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
20 questions

Facebook has revealed how it will help blind people 'see' photos

It’s very similar to 20 questions, and it’s Facebook’s way of bringing more people to its services.

LATE LAST WEEK at his Q&A, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned how the company was looking at different ways of using artificial intelligence (AI). One example was the ability to describe photos to both blind and visually impaired users.

A demo of the technology was shown at the Web Summit earlier today where Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, spoke about its plan to build systems that could make “computer systems see the world like we do”.

One of the examples given was its AI describing a photo it never saw before. The user can ask questions like ‘Is there a man in the photo?, Is he smiling?’ and the system will answer them.

“So much of the world is visual. So much of social networks is social and video [and] much of your brain is dedicated to processing visual imagery”, Schroepfer said “So one of the keys to developing systems that work is teaching computers to understand the visual world”.

Using a number of features like speech and image recognition, it identifies different attributes in a photo – one of the examples shown was a baseball game where it could tell the game played and if it was daytime or not – the user can ask questions about the photo and the system gives back the most relevant answers.

IMG_0943 (1) One of the example's of Facebook's image AI at work. It can identify objects, actions and people in a photo.

The system is called Visual Q&A, and it’s much like 20 questions. In the example given, a photo of a father and baby would see the user asking where they are, what they’re doing and if they are smiling.

The AI will analyse the photo and pick out the best answers. It will show other guesses and objects it picks out as well, but prioritise the main one.

The reason it’s doing this ties back to the main purpose of Facebook: making it accessible to everyone so that more people join.

There are millions of people around the world who have impaired vision and the ability to describe photos (and potentially videos) without needing a second person opens up opportunities for both users and Facebook.

“With all of this data that you can possibly consume for your news feed, all of the hundreds of millions of photos uploaded every day, we want to do the best job we can. Make sure we show you exactly what you want on your feed”, he said.

Read: Web Summit founder: ‘What we received in the last four years was nothing more than hush money’ >

Read: No, Snapchat isn’t storing your photos and never did >

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