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Facebook Rolled Out A Tool That Assists Blind People In "Seeing" Facebook Photos

A new feature gives a verbal description of photos posted on Facebook.

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A new development on Facebook uses artificial intelligence to assist people with a vision disability in "seeing" photos, the social media company announced in a statement on Tuesday.

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But more than 39 million people are blind and over 246 million have a severe visual disability.

That means millions of people are excluded from conversations around photos on Facebook, said the company.

"We want to build technology that helps the blind community experience Facebook the same way others enjoy it," it added.

People using screen readers for Facebook could previously only hear the name of the person who posted the photo followed by the voice saying “photo” when an image popped up in their news feed.

Facebook: video.php / Via Facebook: facebook

For now the new tool is confined to a limited vocabulary of 100 words which restricts it from providing a more detailed description of an image, according to the AP.

Facebook is being conservative in its launch of the tool to avoid any errors in the descriptions. But it plans to provide a more accurate image descriptions and even a functionality that can answer questions that a user might have about a particular image.

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This person said they can now "maybe fully participate in Facebook with my family and friends."

The feature is only available in English for people in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, according to its website. But the company plans to roll out the features in other markets soon.

"While this technology is still nascent," said the company in a statement. "Tapping its current capabilities to describe photos is an important step toward providing our visually impaired community the same benefits and enjoyment that everyone else gets from photos."

Leticia Miranda is a retail reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Leticia Miranda at leticia.miranda@buzzfeed.com.

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