Tuesday September 25, 2018
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Blind Facebook employee is developing tech for sightless

At Facebook, he works on features to help people with disabilities use the platform.

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  • A blind Facebook employee is developing AI to make social network for sightless fun
  • He is developing AI which will verbalise images and videos
  • This technology will enable alt-text for images and videos

A blind Facebook employee is developing a technology that will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to verbalise the content of an image or video and enable the visually impaired to “see” and determine appropriate content for people and advertisers.

Facebook engineer Matt King is leading a project that is making solutions for visually impaired people on the platform that could eventually be used to identify images and videos that violate Facebook’s terms of use or that advertisers want to avoid.

Also Read : Facebook might bring Stories on desktop 

This feature will verbalise images and videos for the visually impaired. Image Source: Reuters
This feature will verbalise images and videos for the visually impaired. Image Source: Reuters

“More than two billion photos are shared across Facebook every single day. That’s a situation where a machine-based solution adds a lot more value than a human-based solution ever could,” CNBC quoted King as saying late on Saturday.

King, who was born with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, lost his vision by the time he got his degree and started working at IBM with the tech giant’s accessibility projects.

He worked on a screen reader to help visually impaired people “see” what is on their screens either through audio cues or a braille device. IBM eventually developed the first screen reader for a graphical interface.

He worked with the accessibility team till Facebook hired him from IBM in 2015.

The man behind this development is Matt King.
The man behind this development is Matt King.

At Facebook, he works on features to help people with disabilities use the platform, like 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,” King said.

Also Read : Facebook Profit Escalates with No Major Impact from Russia and it’s Advertisements

One of his main projects is “automated alt-text,” which describes audibly what is 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.

Facebook is available in more than 29 languages across the world. Pixabay
Facebook is available in more than 29 languages across the world. Pixabay

“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.

In December 2017, Facebook pushed an automatic alt-text update that used facial recognition to help visually impaired people find out who is in photos. IANS

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The European Union Warns Facebook Over Consumer’s Data Usage

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration. VOA

The European Union’s consumer protection chief said Thursday she’s growing impatient with Facebook’s efforts to improve transparency with users about their data, warning it could face sanctions for not complying.

EU Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova turned up the pressure on the social media giant, saying she wants the company to update its terms of service and expects to see its proposed changes by mid-October so they can take effect in December.

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European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova attends an interview with Reuters at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. VOA

“I will not hide that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years and I really want to see, not the progress — it’s not enough for me — but I want to see the results,” Jourova said.

The EU wants Facebook to give users more information about how their data is used and how it works with third party makers of apps, games and quizzes.

“If we do not see the progress the sanctions will have to come,” she said. She didn’t specify punishment, saying they would be applied by individual countries. “I was quite clear we cannot negotiate forever, we just want to see the result.”

The EU has been pressing the U.S. tech company to look at what changes it needs to make to better protect consumers and this year Facebook has had to adapt to new EU data protection rules. The concerns took on greater urgency after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal erupted, in which data on 87 million Facebook users was allegedly improperly harvested.

Jourova said she hopes Facebook will take more responsibility for its nearly 380 million European users.

“We want Facebook to be absolutely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money,” she said.

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An advertisement in The New York Times is displayed on Sunday, March 25, 2018, in New York. Facebook’s CEO apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers. VOA

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

The company said it “will continue our close cooperation to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates.”

Jourova also said U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers.

Airbnb has promised to be fully transparent by either including extra fees in the total price for a booking quoted on its website or notifying users that they might apply, she said.

 

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U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers. Flickr

The company is complying with EU demands spurred by concerns that consumers could be confused by its complicated pricing structure, which could add unexpected costs such as cleaning charges at the end of a holiday.

Airbnb is also changing its terms of service to make it clear that travelers can sue their host if they suffer personal harm or other damages. That’s in response to complaints that its booking system can leave tourists stranded if the rental is canceled when all other arrangements have been already made.

Also Read: EU Regulators Question Online Retailer Amazon’s Data Usage

Airbnb said “guests have always been aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, before booking listings,” and will work with authorities to make it even clearer. (VOA)