What is Intelligent Character Recognition?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2019
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Intelligent character recognition is also known as handwriting recognition -- the two terms are often interchangeable. A handwriting recognition system allows a computer to learn different styles of human handwriting. Handwriting that appears on photographs, touch-screens, plain paper, and many other items can be interpreted by a computer thanks to intelligent character recognition systems.

Offline handwriting recognition refers to any article containing handwriting that is scanned onto a computer. Online intelligent character recognition refers to movements created by a specialized pen tip that is linked to a computer directly. A Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) is a prime example of on-line recognition -- users write directly on the screen of a PDA device, and this handwriting is immediately interpreted by the device. Most handwriting programs of this kind use optical character recognition, though this is not always the case.

When a computer is able to translate any image or character into machine-text, this is known as optical character recognition. This basic translation does not include any structuring or formatting of the actual text. However, some intelligent character recognition programs can format text, choose probably words, and even identify characters as they pertain to text.


Many manufacturers began using intelligent character recognition systems during the 1980s. The first devices that used handwriting recognition were in the form of portable laptops that acted as writing tablets. Users could draw or write directly onto these tablets, while the tablets processed the images on-screen. During the 1990s, the concept of online handwriting recognition really took off with many different manufacturers creating PDAs.

Researchers are still studying handwriting recognition in the hopes that this technology can produce even better results. The International Conference on Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition and the Conference on Document Analysis and Recognition are the two biggest conferences related to intelligent character recognition.

During these conferences, teams of researchers discuss on-line recognition, signature verification, offline recognition, and many other aspects of handwriting recognition. Many believe that this technology has not yet begun to fully surface. Thus, those that are immersed in the research of handwriting recognition are seeking to find other ways to use this technology.

From everyday PDAs to products that are bound to impress in the near future, handwriting recognition is a huge technological advancement. Even though humans have been drawing characters for centuries, computers were not able to recognize these characters until very recently. Translating human handwriting to computer language is no easy feat, though it is a reality.


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Post 6

@hamje32 - Actually the technology has improved quite a bit. I’ve seen a whiteboard optical character recognition program advertised for the tablet computer.

It does a pretty good job of deciphering cursive, but of course that wouldn’t be the chicken scratch variety you describe. I think you have to be flexible with these systems if you want the best results. That means you should work on your penmanship if needed.

Post 5

@everetra - You can get handheld character recognition devices today. I think they are much more practical than the scanner that you had since they are portable and you can take them with you everywhere you go.

How accurate they are, I don’t know. I suspect that you would get better results with typewritten text than you would with handwriting.

Frankly I don’t know how computers will ever do a good job of deciphering handwriting. Everyone’s handwriting is different, and I think that I have the worst “chicken scratch” of anyone else.

Post 4

I bought my first scanner years ago. It was a pretty decent system, boasting that it could scan images and also text.

I have to admit however that while the image scanning was above par, the optical character recognition program left something to be desired.

At best I could get maybe 70-80% accuracy, back then anyway. While that may seem like a high number, that left a lot of text that was garbled and had to be deciphered.

At that level of accuracy it was much easier for me to just type in the whole page by hand rather than relying on the scanner and its software. Nowadays I understand that there has been a big improvement in the technology but back then it was still fairly new.

Post 3

I have always wondered how a computer recognizes my name when I sign a signature pad.

Usually my signature is just a scrawl that doesn't look anything like my normal signature. If there was ever a reason to compare that signature with the way I sign a check, they would not look anything alike.

Are these handwriting recognition systems supposed to match a persons signature, or is it just something that needs to have some kind of signature before the transaction can be completed?

Post 2

When I was in college I worked at a retail store to pay my way through school. This was before the clerks had all the electronic devices that are used today.

I had to manually enter the price into the register. There were also no debit cards or signature pads for customers to sign their name on.

Very few people paid with a credit card, and most wrote checks or paid cash.

The handwriting recognition systems have come along ways, and make the job of a clerk much easier today. I can see how barcode recognition would be easier for a computer to recognize than handwriting.

Being able to scan the products by barcode not only makes the job easier, but also cuts down on the number of errors that are made.

Post 1

I bought my first PDA many years ago, and at that time, was amazed at everything I could do with it.

I find it interesting that there is an international conference on handwriting recognition. It is easy to see how much better the PDA's that are currently available are compared to those that first came out.

I see the field of intelligent character recognition software something that is only going to improve with time. Ten years from now, we will probably be amazed at the changes and improvements that have been made.

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