The PDF (which stands for Portable Document Format) is an undeniably powerful file format. But as anyone who has tried to work with one will tell you, they can be a massive pain in the rectum. Chrome, according to a recent announcement from Google, may take at least some of the sting out of your tail with an upcoming update.
The fact remains that most folks with vision impairment struggle to use technology in general and the internet in particular. That means web browsers, desktops, and documents are often a struggle to access. Chrome, using the magic of artificial intelligence (there’s that word again), plans to make PDFs, at least, a little easier to work with.
Shiny and Chrome
The tech company is bringing optical character recognition (OCR) to both its web browsers and the ChromeOS operating system in a future update. That’s in addition to a broader rollout of a distraction-free Reading Mode for its browsers, but it’s the feature that’s based on an image description capability the company launched in 2019 that’s really interesting.
It’s able to take PDFs, which are sometimes formatted as images (which makes them a bugger to do anything with), and convert those images to text. This will work even in the absence of alt text that Google’s browser could crib from. If you’re gifted with functional sight, this means that you could manipulate the text as needed. If you’re one of many who suffer from eyesight issues, it means that the browser’s screen reader will be able to read it aloud to you.
The features, which are expected to drop in the “coming months”, are intended to improve educational accessibility but they should perform just as well for folks who aren’t attending classes of any kind.