What is Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Technology?

Last updated at April 27, 2023

Optical character recognition (OCR) technology is the process of automatically extracting data from printed or handwritten text in scanned documents or image files. This technology enables the transformation of text into a format that computers can comprehend and use for data processing tasks like editing or searching.

How does OCR work?

OCR software applications may vary in their specific operations, but they generally follow a standard set of rules. The process usually includes the following steps:

Image acquisition

Physical paper documents are scanned by a scanner and converted into digital or binary data. The image is often rendered in black and white, which makes it easier to differentiate between the brighter background and darker characters.


During this step, the OCR engine corrects errors using methods such as de-skewing, binarization, zoning, and normalization to enhance the accuracy of the scanned images.

Text recognition

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can be employed to identify original characters from a scanned image or document. This can be accomplished through two primary algorithms, namely pattern matching and feature extraction. Character-by-character comparisons between text images and their internal database are performed by using pattern-matching algorithms.


The OCR software then converts the extracted data into electronic documents. Advanced OCR systems can compare the extracted data against a glossary or library of characters to ensure maximum accuracy.

Different types of OCR technologies

Optical Word Recognition (OWR):

Optical Word Recognition (OWR) targets typewritten text, one specific word at a time. OWR technology is used for languages that divide words with spacing, and it works best when the text is clear and legible. OWR technology is commonly used for recognizing printed text on labels, signs, and packaging.

Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) technology:

Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) technology is used to recognize specific patterns on a paper document, such as checkboxes, bubbles, and other marks. OMR technology analyzes watermarks, logos, symbols, marks, and patterns on a paper document to recognize and extract data. OMR technology is commonly used in surveys, exams, and ballots to automate the process of collecting and processing data.

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR):

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) uses machine learning and AI technology to analyze the different elements of handwritten or cursive text, such as curves, loops, and lines. ICR technology identifies and processes a single character at a time and is commonly used to recognize handwriting on forms and documents. ICR technology is more complex than OCR technology and requires a higher level of accuracy to recognize and extract text from handwritten documents.

Benefits of Automated OCR Technology

Using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, data can be automatically extracted from printed or handwritten text. Despite the fact that this technology has been around for a while, more recent advances in AI and machine learning have increased its accuracy and dependability.

Improved efficiency

OCR technology, which can process large volumes of data in a matter of minutes, can significantly reduce the time it takes to manually enter data. Along with saving time, this lowers the likelihood of errors during manual data entry. Businesses can stay one step ahead of the competition by processing enormous amounts of data quickly and accurately.

Cost savings

Organizations can save money by using automated technology to eliminate the need for manual data entry. Organizations can cut labor costs by doing away with temporary or additional staff by automating the data entry process. Furthermore, digitizing documents and making them simpler to search for and manage automated technology can assist organizations in saving money on storage and retrieval costs.

Improved accuracy

It has improved recently as a result of machine learning and artificial intelligence developments. Automated technology can accurately identify characters and words, lowering the possibility of errors during manual data entry. By doing this, businesses can increase the accuracy of their data and make wiser decisions.

Enhanced data security

This technology can assist businesses in improving data security by digitizing documents and lowering the need for physical storage. Theft, loss, or damage can be prevented by encrypting and storing digital documents in safe databases. Organizations can track and monitor access to sensitive documents and, ensure that only authorized personnel have access to them.

Increased productivity

Automated OCR software can boost productivity by giving employees more time for other tasks. Organizations can concentrate on more crucial tasks, such as data analysis and decision-making, by automating the data entry process. Allowing organizations to take quicker, more informed decisions, can help them maintain their competitiveness.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) used for?

OCR is a technology that transforms printed or handwritten text into a digital format that can be used for data processing, such as editing or searching. OCR has numerous uses in the government, financial, and healthcare sectors. We will examine the various applications of OCR in this article.

Digitizing Documents

The digitization of printed documents is one of the most common applications of OCR technology. Using this technology, books, newspapers, and invoices can all be converted into digital formats. Because of this, processing data can be done more quickly and effectively, making it easier to store data and use it later.

Data Entry

It can be used to automate data entry processes. Instead of manually entering data from paper documents into a digital system, OCR can extract the data and enter it into a digital system automatically. This reduces the risk of errors and saves time and money.

Document Search and Retrieval

OCR technology can be used to make the text searchable within a document. This allows users to search for specific keywords or phrases within a document, making it easier to find the information they need. It can also be used to categorize and organize documents, making it easier to retrieve them when needed.


Documents can be translated from one language to another using OCR technology. OCR software first extracts and recognizes the text, after which machine translation technology is used to translate it. Businesses that operate in multiple nations and need to translate documents for their clients or staff may find this to be of particular use.


This can be used to make printed documents accessible to people with visual impairments. The technology can recognize and extract text from a document and then convert it into an audio or Braille format, making it accessible to people with visual impairments.

Examples of using OCR technology in different fields and sections.

There are various applications in different fields and industries. Some examples include:


Medical records, lab results, and prescription orders are all digitalized in the healthcare sector. This makes it simpler to search for specific pieces of information and streamlines the documentation process.


The automated data extraction process for invoices, receipts, and other financial documents is done in finance using OCR technology. This increases processing effectiveness and lowers the possibility of errors.


To make textbooks and course materials more accessible to students with disabilities, OCR is used in the educational setting. The grading of multiple-choice tests can also be automated using this method.


Government organizations use OCR to digitize documents and increase the effectiveness of data entry. It can also be utilized in voting systems to automate paper ballot counting.


The retail sector uses this technology to automate the barcode scanning and product identification process. This speeds up transaction processing and helps to improve inventory management.


The legal sector uses it to digitize legal documents and increase the effectiveness of data entry. Likewise, it can be used to look up specific information in legal documents like statutes and case law.

Multi-Lingual OCR System Using the Reinforcement Learning of Character Segmenter

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) has become an integral part of many industries, especially in the field of document digitization and management. OCR enables automated data extraction and improves efficiency and accuracy, saving time and resources. However, one of the biggest challenges in OCR is recognizing text from multiple languages, as different languages have different characters, scripts, and styles. To overcome this challenge, a team of researchers developed a multilingual system using the reinforcement learning of character segmented.

The reinforcement learning of character segmenter is a machine learning technique that enables this system to learn and recognize characters from multiple languages. The system is trained using a reinforcement learning algorithm that rewards the system when it correctly segments characters from different languages. The system uses a convolutional neural network (CNN) to segment the characters and recognize them, and a recurrent neural network (RNN) to recognize the entire text sequence.

The multi-lingual OCR system has many applications in various fields, such as:

Multilingual Document Processing

Organizations are able to manage and search through huge volumes of documents with efficiency. This is possible thanks to the system's ability to process and recognize text from documents in multiple languages.


E-commerce platforms can better understand the needs and preferences of their customers by using the system's ability to recognize product descriptions and customer reviews from a variety of languages.


The system can recognize text from different languages in educational materials, enabling students to learn in their native language.

OCR with neural networks and post-correction with finite state method

The increasing need for accurate OCR has led to the development of advanced OCR technologies such as neural networks and the Finite State Method (FSM).

Optical Character Recognition with Neural Networks

It uses neural networks that employ deep learning algorithms to recognize characters. Neural networks are trained to recognize different font styles, sizes, and languages. The training data consists of a large set of labeled images with corresponding text.

The neural network uses this data to learn the features of different characters and how to recognize them accurately. Advantages of using neural networks include higher accuracy rates, improved recognition of different font styles, and the ability to recognize handwritten text.

Post-correction with Finite State Method

OCR systems often produce errors due to variations in image quality or text format. Post-correction techniques are used to improve the accuracy of OCR output. FSM is one such technique that is commonly used for post-correction. FSM is a mathematical model that represents a set of states, transitions, and actions.

FSM is applied to the OCR output to correct errors by recognizing patterns of characters that are more likely to be correct. FSM can also be used to analyze contextual information to improve the accuracy of the output.

Advantages of using FSM for post-correction in systems include improved accuracy rates, faster processing time, and the ability to handle multiple languages.

Integration of Neural Networks and FSM for OCR

An integrated OCR system that uses both neural networks and FSM for post-correction can significantly improve accuracy rates. The neural network is first trained on a large dataset of labeled images. The FSM is then used to correct any errors in the OCR output.

The neural network is then re-trained on the corrected data, resulting in improved accuracy rates. Advantages of using integrated OCR systems include higher accuracy rates, faster processing time, and the ability to handle multiple languages and font styles.

Applications of OCR with Neural Networks and FSM

The systems of OCR with neural networks and FSM post-correction have numerous applications in various fields. In the healthcare industry, OCR is used for digitizing medical records, prescriptions, and lab reports. OCR is also used in the education sector for digitizing textbooks, course materials, and research papers.

In the retail industry, OCR is used for product cataloging and inventory management. It is also used in the finance sector for processing invoices and receipts. Case studies of OCR systems with neural networks and FSM post-correction have shown significant improvements in accuracy rates, processing time, and overall performance.

Wrap up

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has completely changed how we handle and manage massive amounts of documents. Since its inception in the 1950s, OCR technology has advanced significantly thanks to developments in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and post-correction methods like the Finite State Method. We can anticipate even more precise and effective OCR systems to emerge as OCR technology continues to advance, with new applications and advantages for both individuals and businesses.