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Google Pushes Open Source OCR 212

Posted by Zonk
from the google-has-taken-all-knowledge-to-be-its-provice dept.
SocialWorm writes "Google has just announced work on OCRopus, which it says it hopes will 'advance the state of the art in optical character recognition and related technologies.' OCRopus will be available under the Apache 2.0 License. Obviously, there may be search and image search implications from OCRopus. 'The goal of the project is to advance the state of the art in optical character recognition and related technologies, and to deliver a high quality OCR system suitable for document conversions, electronic libraries, vision impaired users, historical document analysis, and general desktop use. In addition, we are structuring the system in such a way that it will be easy to reuse by other researchers in the field.'"
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Google Pushes Open Source OCR

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  • by user24 (854467) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:07PM (#18679089) Homepage
    The goal of the project is to stop the damn email image spammers.

    among other things, sure, but it's got to be a high priority for google.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:08PM (#18679113)
    ... for Captchas [wikipedia.org]? If Google is pushing OCR I could see it eventually becoming good enough to parse at least some types of captchas.
  • by sammy baby (14909) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:15PM (#18679253) Journal
    And of course, as a side effect they'll probably wind up with a lovely distributed system for solving captcha. ;)
  • Very cool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:17PM (#18679305) Homepage Journal
    I've been hoping that someone with deep pockets (Google, IBM, Sun) would take on this area for a while.

    There is a major need for an OSS OCR package, and right now the field is pretty bare. There's GOCR [sourceforge.net], and a commercial offering called OCRShop, and at least that I've run across, that's about it. Nothing really on par with Omnipage, or other commercial packages for other platforms.

    I think there are some really neat applications for OCR that have never really been investigated, because it's so expensive to build that capability into other products. A free OCR engine that really worked could lead to some very neat book-scanning applications, just for starters. I don't think that there's really any integrated packages around for helping people scan books and manuscripts. (Right now you have to photograph the pages, keep them organized, then OCR them and proofread the text against the images. Bit of a nightmare.) I'd love to see a free application for libraries that let a user batch scan (via a digital camera -- let's not get into what I think of SANE and scanners generally) a book, and then provided a nice interface for proofreading the OCRed text against the original image.

    Something like that could have a huge social impact. There are a lot of libraries where I'm sure they'd love to scan some of their out-of-copyright assets and provide them to patrons in a digital form, but it's just too technically complicated. An easy-to-use program that let the proofreading be done by nontechnical users (maybe remotely, as long as we're dreaming) could vastly increase the volume of digital materials available.
  • And of course, as a side effect they'll probably wind up with a lovely distributed system for solving captcha. ;)

    True, but CAPTCHAs always seemed like a bit of an inelegant hack anyway. First, they're horrible from a disabled-access standpoint, and second they're really not all that effective against a concerted enemy when there's a lot of money on the line. Spammers can just pay a few kids in some Third World country to sit there all day and solve CAPTCHAs if they want to.

    Since message boards, which are the major users of CAPTCHAs, are practically by design little fiefdoms, I don't think they're nearly as hard to patrol as a common-carrier network like email. The solution to message-board spam is to either institute a moderator-delay (for small blogs and boards), or simply make enough admins with IP-ban powers so that the second someone starts spamming, they get banned and the spam gets deleted. Lameness filters working on the same principles as email spam-filters are probably helpful, too.
  • Wonderful! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jshriverWVU (810740) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:27PM (#18679461)
    This'll be a much needed boost for us Linux users who want to help out Project Gutenburg.
  • by jojoba_oil (1071932) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:29PM (#18679493)
    Okay, so one thing will lead to another and soon Google will be creating technology to recognize non-symbol shapes... How long before I can login to my G-Accounts by smiling at my computer?
  • captchas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:40PM (#18679651)
    All you people who are worried about this breaking captchas seem to be missing something--there have been a number of fairly decent OCR packages out there for a long time. The goal of this Google project is to create an open-sourced one that does a good job deciphering HUMAN-READABLE TEXT. Captchas are far from human-readable (the good ones at least), and I seriously doubt this project will help very much in that arena.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot AT keirstead DOT org> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:47PM (#18679753) Homepage
    When we can make a computer that can tell the difference between a kitten and an adult cat (or hell even another furred mamal) with any kind of accuracy, I think the LEAST of your problems at that point is coming up with captchas. You should be more worried about how you're going to escape from Skynet.
  • by user24 (854467) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:58PM (#18679955) Homepage
    Please, please, please, everybody, stop claiming that "what is 2+2?" is a hard AI question. I could code something in a hour to defeat most of this sort of question, and give me a week and a budget and I'll write something to get past 95% of these type of questions.

    If the text is parsable, it takes nothing to google it.
    I mean, those two examples you give; just slap it into google and screenscrape it. So you're going to need harder questions than that.

    So the next generation of crapchas will ask "what color is the sky".
    Go and take a glance at ultraHal or another relatively advance NLP AI; a large knowledgebase is not hard to construct. When it doesn't know, it guesses. If it gets it right, then the knowledgebase increases by one fact.

    So then, what, you have to ask "Given that all bleeps and blue, and blank is a bleep, is blank blue?"
    Not only is that also easily computationally solved, but also a lot of people aren't going to be able to answer (smartass questions about stopping spam and idiots aside)

    So *then* I suppose you have to ask "In the first mathematical antimony, does Kant conclusively prove both that there can have been no beginning to time and that there must have been a beginning to time?"
    and give the user a 255 character textarea to put their answer in.

    So... please, text question based captchas are DOOMED TO FAIL. stop thinking that they could work. They can't.
  • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Feyr (449684) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:00PM (#18679979) Journal
    have you tried gocr? it's nice as a random number generator, but beside that... it's pretty much garbage
  • captcha's (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mithras invictus (1084169) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:27PM (#18680355)
    captcha's are not restricted to images of letters. For example: you could ask people to solve a regular text question (this would also fix accessibility issues)

  • by Instine (963303) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:48PM (#18680709)
    What about a free service to upload scanned images to and recieve html in return?... Please....
  • by slashbob22 (918040) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:50PM (#18680745)
    Ok, I'll bite and play DA for a bit.

    Why Google wouldn't want this:
    1) Google's own patents on search techniques, distributing advertisement, etc. Yes, I understand that you are talking about the need for certain limits to patent law - but this could as easily hurt Google as help them.
    2) They are already challenging the copyright laws with GooTube, I don't see any sense in tackling both at the same time.

    IANIGHQ (In Google's HQ) but I don't see the value of getting sued at this point in time. Besides, if Google is doing this under appropriate conditions there shouldn't be concern of suits - but I suppose their Chinese plagiarism case doesn't support this point.

    // End DA
  • by ajs (35943) <ajs@ a j s . c om> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @04:36PM (#18681451) Homepage Journal

    Why Google wouldn't want this:
    1) Google's own patents on search techniques, distributing advertisement, etc. Yes, I understand that you are talking about the need for certain limits to patent law - but this could as easily hurt Google as help them.
    Google takes the same stand on patent reform as IBM, as far as I know: the current law hurts innovation. They're not looking to have all of their patents stripped, just to reform the system so that innovation is encouraged. At the very least, IBM has (and I think Google too) lobbied for open source exemption. Keep in mind that IBM and Google hold tons of patents, but they mostly use them as a "warchest" to dissuade others from filing patent-related suits.

    2) They are already challenging the copyright laws with GooTube, I don't see any sense in tackling both at the same time.
    I don't buy that one. Patent and copyright law are radically different, and in the copyright case Google is just trying to argue for existing interpretation of the law, not a change.

    Google is doing this under appropriate conditions there shouldn't be concern of suits
    That's not how patent law works. If someone holds a patent on looking at the pixel to the left of the the one you're evaluating, and Google's software does that, then the holder could sue. What's more, there are many dozens of such simple patents surrounding OCR. It's probably the second-most over-patented area of CS next to color-space management.[1] [google.com]
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @05:25PM (#18682177) Homepage Journal
    Now wait a second... you would rather upload a scanned image, which should be at a pretty decent resolution if you want good results, than run the OCR software locally? What, are you using a system with a 33MHz CPU or something?
  • by user24 (854467) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @05:43PM (#18682457) Homepage
    because the answer is up for debate. I'm currently writing a 5000 word paper on it. both answers "yes" and "no" are right, depending on your reasoning, and whether you believe non-Euclidean geometries are anything more than an intellectual curiosity. :-)
  • by Espinas217 (677297) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @05:57PM (#18682629) Homepage Journal
    this just slows down the spammers but can't stop them. If you have a small number of choices it's just a matter of how much the spammer must try to get through. You present 10 images with 1 correct, the spammer has a 10% chance and that's enough to make his bussiness work. I'm not really in favor of captchas but multiple choices won't work for long.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:06PM (#18682753) Homepage Journal

    Do you have a result from scanning Jabberwocky (or other verse in a similar vein) with Google's OCR?

    Just for you, I made one, because I'm that fucking cool.

    1. Visited http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/jabber/jabberwo cky.html [jabberwocky.com].
    2. Printed page 1 (all but one link at the bottom of the page) with default settings on a HP LaserJet 2300.
    3. Scanned on an Epson 3170 as a 300 dpi grayscale PNG with otherwise default settings. (God DAMN this scanner is fast. But then my scanner at home is a shitty Mustek 1200UB since I broke my Canon LiDe.) 2528x3281 pixels.
    4. mespinoza@sec2lpt7-linux:~/ocropus/ocropus-cmd$ ./ocropus ocr ~/Desktop/out.png | tee /home/mespinoza/Desktop/jabberwocky.html (lots of output)

    Prepare to be unimpressed, because Results follow:

    JABBERWOCKY Lewis Carroll

    (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872) `Twas bri11ig,_ andjghe 4s1it_hy toyes Digl gyre amid gimblejn thg wabe: All xiiimsy wei^e thg borogovgs, And theamome raths outigrabe. ''ggwqre thg Jalgbervvpck,_my sqn! The jaw; that bijtel the clayksathat catch! Bgyvaiie the Jubjub bird, anti shun The frumidus Bandersnatch!' I-Ie took his yorpal sword in hand: Long timg tlgewmangome foe he sought So rgSted he by the Tu_mtum tree, And stood awhile in thought. And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jalgbgjwoclg, with eyes of flame, Cqmgwhjfflixgg through fhe tulgey wood, And burbled as it came! Qne, two! One, two! And through and thIi`Ollgh The jrorpgal b]ade went; snicaker-snack! I-Ie left iifdead, and with its head He went galumphing back. ''And, has thou slain thejabbexfwpck? Cpmg to my a_rxps!_my ljgaxjgishboyl Ojralqjousi dwgy! Qalladhl Callayl' He chortled in his joy. S

    \ A S

    X A ?`^s :

    , ' Was ga. ka%#* mm. -- M 1 1 Q at ) a iv 2. `Ail A it 3*,* `i 2 (V H ;. ````( * 4 ^Nq@ Eu..*s..%im X M is ? lgh ~ ``A? S [ A Fax I /),2*gE it ^`* 4 ~ *: ' X A mg x ix, ,t~;;;..: v' it ix '~ t ~ ^ ,4~ ---= =-^ A A i gv ; * XX, x> . . N S A ft 1 A-`A 3; `> ' ''YY \Jh ^***`(?i* , ~~ x `* at -;v- *<~ ' H ~~~-=.- ; `Twas bri11ig,_ and_the 4s1it_hy toyes Dig gyre arid gimblejn the wabe; All Qiixjnsy wei^e thq borogovgs, And thdmome raths outvgrabe.

    dshaw@iabbenNockv.com

    Return to Glorious Nonsense Return to Lewis Carroll

    Results End.

    Beautiful, eh? I also tried a 100 dpi grayscale scan, which came out even more like hash (one big paragraph) and a 300 dpi bitmap (1bpp) which was about the same as the 100 dpi gray scan in quality, though a bit better.

    Looks like ocropus has a while to go before it can slay the Jabberwock instead of thejabbexfwpck.

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