What is Optical Character Recognition?

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E. KayaContent creator at Rulta5/4/22

What is Optical Character Recognition?

Optical character recognition software has been designed to repurpose original content by converting physical written data, images or PDF documents into information that can be changed or read on a digital device. By taking images, scanned documents and PDFs and then recreating individual characters and then words, this software is then able to recreate documents which are presented in their original format which can then be edited, searched or counted by digital devices. This eliminates the need to manually enter information from documents like PDFs and images, as the data is automatically converted into accessible and readable information that can be edited and read by a digital device. The most advanced forms of optical character recognition algorithms can manipulate data entries, recognizing and changing things like language and even handwriting.

Though this software is generally used today to convert images or documents that cannot be edited to files that can be changed on digital devices, it was developed back in 1974 before this kind of technology even existed. This first device was developed as a technology that could read print and convert this print into words that were read allowed which was a huge development in technology to help the blind. In 1990, optical character recognition was mostly used to digitize historical newspapers and has only grown since this time! Today, we use optical character recognition software often in our day-to-day lives, though we may not even realize it! 

How Does Optical Character Recognition Work?

So how does optical character recognition work and what is optical character recognition used for? Optical character recognition software repurposes information that may be on documents that cannot be edited on a digital device, like on physical papers or images. This image or the physical paper is read by the optical character recognition software and converted to digital files. 

This is extremely beneficial as it can help automate conversions, ensuring that images, documents and PDFs that cannot be edited can be converted to a digital format that can be used. Optical character recognition software works by singling out individual letters and characters and then converts these single characters into readable digital content. This is extremely beneficial as it avoids the manual entry of data, which can be extremely time-consuming. 

The following is a list of the specific steps and best optical character recognition techniques.

  • Image Acquisition: The first step of the process is image acquisition, where a scanner will read and convert an image into what is known as binary data. Following this, it will then distinguish the different parts of a page using light and dark spots to identify what is text and what is the background. 
  • Preprocessing: A page, particularly one that has been handwritten, may have inconsistencies that could confuse the reader when recognising text. A dark smudge or image that may be text but is not definable could confuse the technology. During preprocessing, these inconsistencies and errors within the content are removed so that the document can be easily read by the software. 
  • Text Recognition: There are two ways that optical character recognition software can read texts. 
    • Pattern Matching: Pattern matching uses stored patterns based on characters to define and convert the data. Because this type of text recognition is based on pre-loaded figures, they work best with typed documents, with a recognizable font. 
  • Feature Extraction: Feature extraction uses lines and loops to define characters, which makes them more likely to pick up on written content. These documents do not have to be written in a specific style of writing or in a font because they analyze the lines as opposed to matching based on preloaded data. 
  • Post-Processing: After the text has been analyzed and converted, post-processing systems will create a document. This final step involves compiling the images together and presenting them in the same format and way that they were on the previous page. Some tools may even present you with the before and after images to ensure that all information was converted correctly. 

What are The Types of OCR?

When looking at how to use optical character recognition software, it is important to note that there are different types to consider. Different types of optical character recognition software have been developed with different capabilities and functions. The following are the different types of optical character recognition software. 

Simple Optical Character Recognition Software

A simple optical character recognition software works by using pre-stored templates and patterns to determine the characters and placements of certain letters. This type of optical character recognition technology bases its data on algorithms that compare the images or texts and individual characters to what is stored within its own database. The limitations of this kind of recognition software are that not every font is presented in the same way, and if a person has a style of writing that is not compatible with the text style within the database, it may not be able to convert the data.

Intelligent Character Recognition Software

Intelligent character recognition software uses technology that uses algorithms that understand and read letters and words as humans do. The kind of network that is used within a device with these capabilities is referred to as a neural network and it will be able to analyze the data in various ways to understand and convert the information correctly. This sounds like it would take a while, but this device actually processes this information in a matter of seconds, converting data quickly and precisely. 

Intelligent Word Recognition

This form of optical character recognition works very similarly to intelligent character recognition software, but instead of analyzing individual characters it rather looks at words as an entirety. 

Optical Mark Recognition

This kind of software will be able to convert logos, watermarks and other non-text symbols, making it extremely beneficial for those who are hoping to digitize images. This sort of optical character recognition uses different features and processes to analyze the data it is given. 

What are The Advantages of Optical Character Recognition?

There are many reasons and ways that optical character recognition can be beneficial. There are so many different uses for this kind of technology, from helping in business to even creating software that can help disabled people! If optical character recognition functions and software were not developed, we would not be able to convert information as easily as we do today. The following are just a few other examples and reasons why optical character recognition software can be seen as beneficial today! 

  • Makes It Easy to Search and Analyze Data: When a document is unreadable by digital devices, it makes it extremely hard for people to identify and analyze certain things. If you needed to know the number of words on a physical document, for example, you would literally have to go and manually count every word. For longer documents, this would be impossible. 
  • Helps Avoid Manual Data Entries: If optical character recognition software did not exist, any digitally unreadable or physical content would not be able to be processed unless it is manually entered into a system. This manual data entry is extremely time-consuming and could cost companies a lot of money when it comes to labor. When thinking about manual data entries, you also have to consider that there needs to be room for human error, meaning that the data entered may not be completely accurate. 
  • Efficiency: One of the main advantages of optical character recognition software is that they provide an efficiency that is extremely valuable. Being able to convert images and physical papers into digital documents can help improve the effectiveness and efficacy of a company in all areas, particularly when it comes to storage and organization. 

Optical Character Recognition Use Cases

There are many different areas where optical character recognition software is extremely valuable. One of the most notable industries to look at however is the healthcare sector. When it comes to medical documentation, it is extremely important that every aspect of a person's health is kept on record and can be accessed by doctors from anywhere in the world. When it comes to making these documents accessible, optical character recognition software helps to ensure that all data, from doctors' prescriptions to x-rays to different scans, can be stored as accessible data. 

Having digital patient files is extremely important for both health care providers and insurance companies, who need to access a doctor's records in order to confirm claims. The medical industry is just one of many when it comes to this software being beneficial and it offers a great optical character recognition example of how this software can be used! 

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