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Google Releases Tesseract as Open Source 251

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bit-rot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google recently released Tesseract as open source. Originally developed at the HP Labs from 1985-1995, it has been touted as one of the most accurate Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs available. Having sat on the shelf gathering dust for so many years, Google cleaned up some of the more outdated portions of the code and released it for general consumption. You can download Tesseract over at Sourceforge.
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Google Releases Tesseract as Open Source

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  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:30PM (#16041704) Homepage Journal
    HOORAY! Good free OCR software is in short supply. I wonder if this will have a positive impact on Project Gutenberg?
    • I wonder if this will have a positive impact on Project Gutenberg?

      Should we praise technology that helps Project Gutenberg run out of pre-1923 books faster? Once all notable pre-1923 books are scanned, OCR'd, and cleaned up, then what does PG do?

      • Un-Finishable (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Monday September 04, 2006 @11:09PM (#16041908) Homepage Journal
        In all honesty, I doubt Project Gutenberg will have run out of pre-1923 books by the time that new stuff starts coming out of Copyright under the new rules. They have everything written by humanity before that date to digitize: not just English language books and "classics," but government documents, records, foreign language texts, ancient manuscripts ... everything. That's as close to an un-finishable task as you can set yourself, I think.

        Just assuming that somehow they did manage to digitize everything that was out of copyright, then I think what they should do is start archiving everything that they can. Even if they can't disseminate the information, they could still scan documents in and store them for later OCR-ing, thus preserving them against deterioration. I think this would be covered by fair use law even if the work was still protected. Perhaps this sort of archival work is not exactly the aim of PG, but it's still critically important.

        With that said, I don't mean to in any way excuse the disgusting abuse of our political and legal system that was and is the "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act." That thing is a disgusting example of pretty much everything that's wrong with our government today.
        • Re:Un-Finishable (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @12:58AM (#16042365)
          In all honesty, I doubt Project Gutenberg will have run out of pre-1923 books by the time that new stuff starts coming out of Copyright under the new rules.

          Your argument makes the fundamentally flawed assumption that the "new rules" will remain constant. The reality is that Copyright will continue getting extended so that new content never comes into Public Domain. (I hope the copyright fuckers are the first against the wall when the revolution comes!)

          Even if they can't disseminate the information, they could still scan documents in and store them for later OCR-ing, thus preserving them against deterioration.

          I'm sure they could even OCR them... they just couldn't make them available to the public. Of course, given the community-driven mechanism by which Project Gutenberg works, they couldn't legally distribute them to the volunteers either...

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by HuguesT (84078)
            This is patently false. New stuff comes out of copyright every day. However, coming out of copyright is not the same thing as becoming available to the public. Clearly this is where Projet Gutenberg comes in.

            One enormous area I'm personnally interested in is sheet music. Some of the music I'm interested in playing has come out of copyright decades or even centuries ago. No one is going to reclaim copyright on Mozart's requiem for instance. Yet it is by and large not available to the public because translati
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by gweeks (91403)
              > This is patently false. New stuff comes out of copyright every day.

              This is just so un-true. In the United States (the only place that project Gutenberg worries about) nothing is entering the Public Domain except unpublished manuscripts where the author died 70 years ago. Nothing else will enter the public domain until 2019. Congress has affectivly frozen the public domain.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by fotbr (855184)
                Unless estate holders release it early. Or the author and holder of the copyright declares in his/her will that his/her work be released into the public domain upon his death, etc.

                Just because its not common (or likely) doesn't mean it can't happen.
        • I doubt Project Gutenberg will have run out of pre-1923 books by the time that new stuff starts coming out of Copyright under the new rules.

          Are you insinuating that the 115th Congress won't try to enact a Chastity Bono Copyright Term Extension Act? Given Mexico's life plus 100 copyright term, the next step of "harmonization" for the United States and its trading partners is life plus 100 or, in the case of works made for hire, 125 years after publication.

          Just assuming that somehow they did manage to dig

      • by technos (73414)
        Gutenberg already uses OCR. Has for a decade at least.

        • by ma++i+ude (580592)

          Gutenberg already uses OCR. Has for a decade at least.

          Indeed it has. And as their scanning FAQ [gutenberg.org] explains, they recommend you buy an OCR software package. I'm all for having the right tools for the job, even if it means going non-OSS, but if these packages are available for free, it encourages more people to participate. Surely that's a good thing?

      • by bersl2 (689221)
        Well, pending another retroactive extension of copyright (I don't even want to start on that...), works will begin to enter the public domain.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Commie1 (526208)
      I've been using Tesseract for a PG project for a few weeks now and, as TFA says, it's not as good
      as some commercial ones out there. Abby Finereader seems to be the OCR software of choice for
      Distributed Proofreaders, at least.
      Tesseract just has ASCII support (for now, as they like to add), so it ignores italics, accents etc.
      In the case of the book I'm working on, it had a very hard time with the ff ligature and had some
      trouble with b and c, but became hut, he became be, c was often an o or e.
      The words diffi
  • Anti-spam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bacon Bits (926911) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:30PM (#16041706)
    This should be useful for adding anti-image spam capabilities to FOSS anti-spam programs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:33PM (#16041726)
    Google cleaned up some of the more outdated portions of the code
    i.e., added AdSense to the OCR output.
  • by smileytshirt (988345) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:34PM (#16041733) Homepage
    My guess is that they are doing this in the hope the open source community will build on and improve OCR technology. This would be in Google's interest, as it can then index text from images (such as their own Books project) more accurately and efficiently.
    • My guess is that they are doing this in the hope the open source community will build on and improve OCR technology.

      More likely the computer vision research community, actually. "Many eyes" help a lot with bugs and bugfixes, but, ironically, not so well on nontrivial vision tasks.
  • Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by nihilatron (32440) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:40PM (#16041753)
    Now I can finally see how to tell the difference between the 'A'-ness of 'A' and the 'P'-ness of 'P'!

    (Credit to S.G.)
  • From the Project (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gopal.V (532678) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:43PM (#16041772) Homepage Journal

    > It was open-sourced by HP and UNLV in 2005.

    So google basically did what ? Fix bit-rot ? Google has re-released some open source code, essentially forking off the orginal ?

    > License: (None Listed)

    I'm a fan of the FOSS idea. Basically that makes sures that the whole work to which I contributed, always remains available to me (and others). It might not always work for a company, but as a developer it makes sense to me. And the second thing I need to see is a License after I see some code.

    So explain to me how exactly this is open source (other than the "compile, but don't touch" version of it) and *then* I might think of downloading it and probably fix a few bugs or write docs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kevlarman (983297)
      if you had bothered to browse cvs you would find that it has been released under the apache license: http://tesseract-ocr.cvs.sourceforge.net/tesseract -ocr/tesseract/COPYING?view=markup [sourceforge.net]
    • License (Score:3, Informative)

      by mapinguari (110030)
      Here's what's in the COPYING file distributed with the source, with some punctuation stripped to placate the lameness filter:

      This package contains the Tesseract Open Source OCR Engine.
      Orignally developed at Hewlett Packard Laboratories Bristol and
      at Hewlett Packard Co, Greeley Colorado, the majority of the code
      in this distribution is now licensed under the Apache License:

      ** Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
      ** you may not use this file except in compliance with the Licen

      • by arose (644256)
        So it isn't open source after-all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *
        The Aspirin/MIGRAINES system in the aspirin directory is separately licensed thus: [proprietary junk license]

        Anybody know how important this headache library is to the software, and how easily replaced it is?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by lisaparratt (752068)
          It's a neural networking system, so I'd hazard a guess that it's pretty vital to the project :(
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:44PM (#16041773) Homepage
    Originally developed at the HP Labs from 1985-1995, it has been touted as one of the most accurate Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs available.

    Yeah, but how is it on lip-reading? That's when we really need to worry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Yeah, but how is it on lip-reading? That's when we really need to worry.

      Given that my laptop has a microphone I was a bit worried about the recent article on google sampling sound on peoples computers. But my wife's laptop also has a webcam. Should I tell my wife not to google in bed? If the mic is off will they still catch what she is talking about?

      Dave why don't you take a stress pill and lie down. If you are looking for something to read there is always google news.

  • Hosting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:44PM (#16041775) Homepage Journal
    Is there any particular reason google isn't hosting [google.com] the project themselves?
  • it would be great if tesseract [blogspot.com] could augment the gocr [sourceforge.net]-based FuzzyOCR [apache.org] and OCR [apache.org] plugins for SpamAssassin [apache.org].
  • No binaries! Only source code! Good luck getting it to compile on Windows, I gave up after I got several dozen obscure errors I had never seen before from the compiler.*

    * If anyone can get VC++2K5 to compile it, please post.

    • I downloaded and tried compiling it in OS X and got some linux-specific build problems. I'm no code guru so I gave up as well. But then, even linux doesn't support the `make install` process, as claimed but the `./configure` script's output.
    • by cduffy (652)
      Yes, the source is crap. Look at the debugging console -- they're *spawning an xterm* for output that would traditionally go to stderr. Don't have a DISPLAY set? Program crashes. Building on MacOS? Lucky you -- they have a bunch of commented-out code for running a separate window to display (what-should-be) stderr on the Mac; consequently, instead of getting output to stderr (which would actually be *useful* for redirection to a file, or direct output to the console, or whatever) it goes off into nowhere be
  • my thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Monday September 04, 2006 @11:43PM (#16042078)
    I would love to use a free (speech and beer) OCR engine that works as well as a commercial one, or even nearby as good as a commercial one.

    I just checked out tesseract. One thing I have to look at more is the license. It appears to be the Apache license, which seems like a decent free license. But it also includes MITRE's aspirin. I'm not sure how dependent it is on aspirin and what the license restrictions of aspirin are.

    The two best free OCR engines out right now are clara and gocr. While they are the best, they are not that great yet. I just ran the same tiff I had run with those two (I also have the document in pbm and other formats). Tesseract did not read it, it bailed with "IMAGE::check_legal_access:Error:Can't seek backwards in a buffered image!"

    Clara and GOCR are written in C, Tesseract is written in C++, a language I don't know. Tesseract did well in the UNLV challenge so it probably has some good features. It does say it has no page layout analysis though.

    Hopefully this can be improved, or good parts of it can be borrowed and incorporated into gocr or clara. It couldn't handle my test that both clara and gocr could, but it probably has strengths the other two doesn't. One day hopefully we'll have a free OCR that handles things as automagically as the commercial ones do. I will see what I can contribute to that as well. Although this is C++ and I don't know that language.

    • by Phroggy (441) *
      If you've only used the latest released version of gocr, definitely try the development version; it's far superior (i.e. not completely useless).
  • I've tried all the previous open source stuff and it was pretty much unusable. The accuracy was so bad that it was just easier to start typing. I got a few of the Windows programs kinda of working under WINE, but then I discovered Vividata and it worked really well and could be called from the command line. This meant I could write my own scripts that used it. I used it quite a bit for Project Gutenberg and was very impressed. It's not cheap, but if you want to do OCR under Linux and can afford it, I r
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @12:18AM (#16042218)
    In 1995 it was one of the top 3 performers at the OCR accuracy contest organized by University of Nevada in Las Vegas. However, shortly thereafter, HP decided to get out of the OCR business...

    Actually, shortly thereafter, HP decided to get out technology innovation business, and into the printer ink business.

  • W0W1 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @12:21AM (#16042230)
    TH18 IS GRLAT NEWf4 FOR TH0Sj OF US U$1NZ BA) O(R RLCOGN1+ION!

    THAHKS, G00GLL!1!!!
  • This story is somewhat timely for me. I am secretary of a club, we have a large quantity of documents collected over the last 20 years or so, some hand written, some typed, forms, invoices, minutes of meetings, letters sent to and from etc etc. There are a LOT of documents.

    Lately I've been thinking about computerizing these documents into a web based system, so that any of the club executive can search and pull out a document they need etc, we could also flag documents as "general release" so that people
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You're a secretary? Do you do anal? If so, I can double your pay.
  • by TheoMurpse (729043) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @01:13AM (#16042436) Homepage
    As there seems to be no documentation on the Sourceforge page about what this can actually do, does it learn or follow rules? If it learns, can it learn to recognize, say, Japanese characters?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Google specifically said in the article it doesn't work for non-english texts. I suppose it means it incorporates an english dictionnary too, so other roman language wouldn't work either.
  • Parts of the Tesseract tar ball are under a "for non-commercial use" only license:

    This software is the copyright of Russell Leighton and the MITRE Corporation. It may be freely used and modified for research and development purposes. We require a brief acknowledgement in any research paper or other publication where this software has made a significant contribution. If you wish to use it for commercial gain you must contact The MITRE Corporation for conditions of use.

    The piece in question is a neural

  • Screen captured some text from the article, used XV to transform into tif, changing image to monochrome.

    Input image: it has been touted as one of the most accurate Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs available. Having sat on the shelf gathering dust for so many years, Google cleaned up some of the more outdated portions of the code

    Output text: ii has been lamed as one of lhe mos! accurale Oplical Characler Recognilion (OCR) programs available. Having sat on lhe shelf galhering dusk for so many ye
    • by Random832 (694525)
      I have no idea what kind of input is optimal, but for a first shot in the dark, that's not too shabby. I'll go play with it some more.

      meh. a _screenshot_ contains perfectly regular characters - if it can't ace _that_ then I don't _want_ to see what it does with a scanned page.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CXI (46706)
        A screen shot is typically much lower resolution than what you'd normally scan documents at for OCR. It's not a good test.
  • by omeg (907329)
    I don't get it. Isn't everything released on SourceForge supposed to be under a free license? Then how come this is released under no license? Perhaps I'm not looking on the right pages, but I can't seem to find anything besides the "none listed" on the main page of the project.
  • that F/OSS isn't anti-business. It just works with different business models.

    Google's business interest in releasing this as open source is obvious: the greater the value of the materials available to the Internet, the greater the value of its service.

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