An Introduction to OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

While the world as we know it is moving towards a faster better working style, how has it impacted the technical realm and specifically, digitization? Today, machine replication of human functions, such as reading is not a mirage. Thanks to OCR or Optical Character Recognition. Moving over to understand what the term OCR means:

The simple definition for Optical Character Recognition would be it being, “a process by which text characters can be input to a computer by providing the computer with an image.” How exactly does that work exactly, you ask? Well, the computer or laptop in use employs an OCR engine or a computer program with the specific function of surmising as to which letter (recognizable to a computer), an image (recognizable to a human) represents. OCR has quickly become one of the topmost successful applications of technology in the field of pattern recognition as well as artificial intelligence. The recognition engine of OCR interprets scanned images and turns it into ASCII data – or machine-readable characters. Read this case study by Cognizant on how they created a successful automated solution for a real estate company by using the OCR Platform approach. 


The OCR process

A character recognition system mostly comprises the following steps:-  

  1. Image Acquisition
  2. Pre-processing
  3. Segmentation
  4. Feature Extraction
  5. Classification

How does the OCR algorithm work?

Primarily, the OCR engine scans an image and quickly tries to check for elements that resemble letters within it. With the use of preset parameters, OCR tries to recognize specific characters. For better understanding, check the following instances.   

  1. The letters ‘a’ and ‘e’ are a lot similar.
  2. So are the capitalized letters ‘E’ and ‘F’, specifically due to the horizontal lines [—] in between, for both. 
  3. Moving on the case of P and D. Mostly similar, with the stark distinction being the extended line in P that D does not possess.
  4. If you thought that numerals and alphabets have no similarity, think again! 2 and Z; q and 9.
  5. How about those punctuation symbols – the colon [:] and the semi-colon [;]? Used in completely different connotations, yet mostly missed by a large statistic of readers on the distinction!  

But not so by the trusted Optical Character Recognition tool. The OCR tries to decipher the text at high accuracy levels to find a match to deliver best results. As the system is not entirely foolproof, a manual reading and thereby, editing, is highly recommended. OCR engines are also programmed to recognize specific fonts.

The Manual & Automated Input OCR Methods 

Here’s a broad outline of the two types of methods in use. Manual methods include Keyboard and Touch-sensitive screens; while the automated processes encompass MICR [Magnetic Ink Character Recognition], ICR [Intelligent Character Recognition], Bar Coding, EPOS [Electronic Point Of Sale] technology, EFTPOS [Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale], OMR [Optical Marker Reading], Magnetic stripe cards, Smart cards.     

Entrust Riant Data with tedious work such as process and input of text from images. We transform information provided on any media into the digital formats you need using our reliable image processing solutions. Interested? Drop us a line here and let’s get started!

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