Mocavo announced this week that it’s making progress on optical character recognition (OCR) software that will read cursive handwriting, which could revolutionize how digitized records are put online.
OCR software is often used to index typeset genealogy records, such as newspapers, city directories and family history books. It lets you search every word in those records, without any person ever having to read the record and extract names and dates.
Current OCR software is pretty good at reading those typeset documents, although it makes mistakes when documents or digitized images have problems such as fading, blurring and ink spots. When I search OCR-indexed records for my last name, I get a lot of irrelevant matches containing the phrase “had had.”
OCR software that can read not just typed or printed words, but also cursive handwriting of various languages, historical eras and styles, means digital records could become searchable online a lot faster. Potential benefits include:
- There would be no need for armies of volunteers to index records.
- You would be able to search the entire text of documents, not just the names and dates captured by indexers.
- Full transcriptions of documents would be readily available.
Matt Garner, a developer Mocavo inherited last year when it acquired Ready Micro, has been instrumental in developing the software.
On the Mocavo blog, company founder Cliff Shaw described the process, which first involved developing OCR software that could “perfectly separate handwriting from typewritten text.”
Now, Shaw says, the company is getting closer to the “Holy Grail” of being able to accurately read handwritten text. “With limited vocabularies (potential answers), we’re achieving 90-95% accuracy,” he writes.
They still have work to do to achieve the ability to read handwriting of a wide range of styles, and to overcome problems with faded or ink-spotted documents I mentioned above. Read about the software and see examples on the Mocavo blog.
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