BLOG Instagram Adds Automatic Image Descriptions to Assist Visually Impaired Users

Published: Dec 12, 2018 4 min read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Andrew Hutchinson

Source: SocialMediaToday

Facebook has been developing its image recognition capacity for some time, and is already utilizing its advanced object identification tools to help categorize and sort photos on its main app.

Now, those same tools are being extended to Instagram, with the visual-focused app this week announcing the addition of automatic alternative text to provide descriptions of objects in photos via screen readers, and custom alternative text, so users can add descriptions of their photos when they upload.

Instagram alternative text entry process

As shown in the above sequence, the option is in the ‘Advanced Settings’ section in the upload flow – tap on it, and you can now select the new ‘Write Alt text’ option to enter in an image description. That will not only enable Instagram to provide more accurate explanations of image content to visually impaired users, but the manually entered tags also have the potential to help educate it’s machine learning systems as to how it can identify similar objects in future.

It’s a logical, and helpful move – particularly given more than 285 million people in the world are visually impaired in some way. But in addition to this, advanced image recognition has a range of applications beyond basic assistance, with the process enabling a whole new range of data points and ways to sort content, on both Facebook and Instagram.

For example, through advanced image recognition, marketers could eventually tap into the following benefits:

  • In being able to search for images based on text, you could find people who already buy your products, or related products, if those items are visible in the background of images. This could enable you to reach out to these users with related offers
  • By being able to detect that certain users wear clothes with your branding on them, and regularly post images in those clothes, you could target those users and provide them with special offers, enabling you to not only reach people who are more likely to be interested in such offers, but who you know will also likely continue to post images in the same, giving you an additional promotional boost
  • If image data is provided as another insights tool, you could gain more perspective on your target audience by cross-matching their product purchases (based on image recognition) with their other usage and demographic data points, helping to target your outreach.

Now, the focus here is not on advanced marketing data, and definitely, creating a more inclusive system should be the priority. But there is a range of additional, potential opportunities here, and Facebook’s image recognition tools are getting better and better at this every day.

And when you also add to that the research that Google is conducting into similar – just this week, Google outlined a new approach to detecting depth within images to better identify objects.

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