Microsoft AI will now Aid the Visually Impaired in Microsoft Office

December 7, 2016, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Microsoft’s work with artificial intelligence has most often managed to be top notch. Now, the company is taking its neural networks a step ahead to make something out of it for the visually impaired.

Computer Vision Cognitive Service, an upcoming feature that will be incorporated in Microsoft Office, is designed so as to empower its neural networks to automatically suggest text suggestions, which it calls alt-text, for images and slide deck captions. Users can pick this up and get those alt-texts registered so that these tags get vocalized when the document is presented for a blind.

The feature, which is being developed for Microsoft Office apps like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, could be a considerable move in the development of AI towards newer applications. The images will be recognized using the highly capable neural networks of Microsoft, and the company says that the machine learning will get stronger with the further usage of the feature by users.


The new feature will be initially made available for Office and PowerPoint on PC devices for Office 365 subscribers, which will be by the beginning of next year. Alongside, Microsoft will also be releasing specifically designed templates that will come with screen reader and keyboard to ensure ease access of navigation. Alongside, the fonts and colors of these templates will also be tweaked to facilitate persons with low vision or color blindness.

An accessibility checker has now been made available for those who want to customize the slide decks, and it’s available for Office PC apps. This will be helpful for users in reviewing the file, and for fixing those issues that create difficulty for the visually impaired people in accessing those files.

Microsoft has been spearheading its AI technologies for quite a time, and has successfully managed to make it reach out to the consumer end through products like SwiftKey. The company is also part of the Partnership on AI tech association that includes companies like Google and Amazon along with the rest, aiming to work for the betterment of AI.

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