On Wednesday, publication Fast Company reported that Google's Chrome has launched a new accessibility feature that uses AI to describe images -- even those without provided alt-text -- on the web to those who are blind or have compromised vision.
As some of the most frequented platforms online -- particularly social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook -- become saturated with image-based content like memes or family photos, the dissonance between those with and without the ability to see increases. Unfortunately, the latter group often misses out on entire digital experiences.
While big websites have the manpower to ensure that every image has an alternative-text label, smaller ones typically don't. Even Facebook and Instagram can't keep up with the onslaught of images uploaded every second to the platform. Using artificial intelligence and image recognition, Google's Chrome accessibility team is seeking to minimize this problem.
To bring blind and low-vision users a fuller online experience, Chrome is taking "advantage of Google's considerable image recognition prowess to algorithmically generate alt text descriptions of images." Instead of a screen reader or a Braille display providing users with improper image titles like "image" or a file name consisting of a string of numbers, Chrome will automatically generate a description of a picture regardless of its technical label. While the descriptions aren't particularly detailed and are always prefaced with "appears to be/say," users will mostly likely get a proper categorization of the subject matter.
According to Fast Company, this feature is slowly being rolled out to the public, specifically targeting those who use screen readers.