Microsoft is Adding Auto-generated Image Labels to Edge

Microsoft has announced the addition of an important accessibility feature to its Microsoft Edge browser that will enable blind or visually impaired people to better understand the meaning and content of web pages.

This feature is the browser's ability to automatically generate image labels (alt-text) for images that do not contain an alt text, to help screen readers used by those people recognize the content of web pages and understand their meaning.

Screen readers are an assistive technology that reads aloud the content of every page and it’s greatly helping people with vision difficulties in browsing and using the web. But according to Microsoft, more than half of the images on the web that screen readers process does not contain alt text, causing people using these assistive technologies to not fully understand the meaning of web pages.

Microsoft's new service relies on Machine Learning (ML) to create these labels. Microsoft Edge will send unlabelled images to Azure Cognitive Services' Computer Vision API for processing. 

Most common web image formats are supported (JPEG, PNG, GIF, WEBP, etc.), and the Vision API can analyze images and create descriptive summaries in 5 languages (English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and Simplified Chinese), and recognize text inside of images in over 120 languages. Images sent to this service are governed by Microsoft's Privacy promise.

Of course, the results provided by the auto-generated image labels feature may not be 100% accurate, as it is a result of a Machine Learning process, and Microsoft advises website authors to always attach an alt text, because only they fully understand the context and intent of the image and its creative meaning and can supply the most relevant description.

The automatically generated image labels feature in Microsoft Edge is available on both Windows Mac and Linux, and you can try it out by visiting "edge://settings/accessibility", and look for the new setting “Get image descriptions from Microsoft for screen readers". The feature is not currently available for Microsoft Edge on Android or iOS

When activated, a message will appear at the top of the page, click on the "Yes I'm in button".

Adding such an accessibility feature to Edge is a really nice initiative from Microsoft as it will help the many visually impaired people to have a better web experience equally.

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