Proceedings PaperPage Recognition: Quantum Leap In Recognition Technology
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No milestone has proven as elusive as the always-approaching "year of the LAN," but the "year of the scanner" might claim the silver medal. Desktop scanners have been around almost as long as personal computers. And everyone thinks they are used for obvious desktop-publishing and business tasks like scanning business documents, magazine articles and other pages, and translating those words into files your computer understands. But, until now, the reality fell far short of the promise. Because it's true that scanners deliver an accurate image of the page to your computer, but the software to recognize this text has been woefully disappointing. Old optical-character recognition (OCR) software recognized such a limited range of pages as to be virtually useless to real users. (For example, one OCR vendor specified 12-point Courier font from an IBM Selectric typewriter: the same font in 10-point, or from a Diablo printer, was unrecognizable!) Computer dealers have told me the chasm between OCR expectations and reality is so broad and deep that nine out of ten prospects leave their stores in disgust when they learn the limitations. And this is a very important, very unfortunate gap. Because the promise of recognition -- what people want it to do -- carries with it tremendous improvements in our productivity and ability to get tons of written documents into our computers where we can do real work with it. The good news is that a revolutionary new development effort has led to the new technology of "page recognition," which actually does deliver the promise we've always wanted from OCR. I'm sure every reader appreciates the breakthrough represented by the laser printer and page-makeup software, a combination so powerful it created new reasons for buying a computer. A similar breakthrough is happening right now in page recognition: the Macintosh (and, I must admit, other personal computers) equipped with a moderately priced scanner and OmniPage software (from Caere Corporation) can recognize not only different fonts (omnifont recogniton) but different page (omnipage) formats, as well.