Microsoft’s new image-captioning AI will help accessibility in Word, Outlook, and beyond – James Vincent

The image captioning algorithm will be used to improve apps like Seeing AI, here being used by developer Florian Beijers. | Image: Microsoft / Maurice Jager

Microsoft has developed a new image-captioning algorithm that exceeds human accuracy in certain limited tests. The AI system has been used to update the company’s assistant app for the visually impaired, Seeing AI, and will soon be incorporated into other Microsoft products like Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint. There, it will be used for tasks like creating alt-text for images — a function that’s particularly important for increasing accessibility.

“Ideally, everyone would include alt text for all images in documents, on the web, in social media — as this enables people who are blind to access the content and participate in the conversation,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager with Microsoft’s AI team in a press statement….

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