PhotoOCR: Reading Text in Uncontrolled Conditions

Alessandro Bissacco, Mark Cummins, Yuval Netzer, Hartmut Neven; Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2013, pp. 785-792


We describe PhotoOCR, a system for text extraction from images. Our particular focus is reliable text extraction from smartphone imagery, with the goal of text recognition as a user input modality similar to speech recognition. Commercially available OCR performs poorly on this task. Recent progress in machine learning has substantially improved isolated character classification; we build on this progress by demonstrating a complete OCR system using these techniques. We also incorporate modern datacenter-scale distributed language modelling. Our approach is capable of recognizing text in a variety of challenging imaging conditions where traditional OCR systems fail, notably in the presence of substantial blur, low resolution, low contrast, high image noise and other distortions. It also operates with low latency; mean processing time is 600 ms per image. We evaluate our system on public benchmark datasets for text extraction and outperform all previously reported results, more than halving the error rate on multiple benchmarks. The system is currently in use in many applications at Google, and is available as a user input modality in Google Translate for Android.

Related Material

author = {Bissacco, Alessandro and Cummins, Mark and Netzer, Yuval and Neven, Hartmut},
title = {PhotoOCR: Reading Text in Uncontrolled Conditions},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV)},
month = {December},
year = {2013}