Optical Character Recognition software has been around for a while now and is used in many applications from number plate recognition to document scan to text. The big opportunity comes when incorporated into Surveying and robotics. For this, many companies turn to big Cloud Computing Products such as Google Cloud or Azure but there is a cheaper way if you are prepared to do some computer legwork and are not after a one stop shop solution. If you want one stop then GCP or Azure is the place to go but you will pay for it.

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Alternatively you can combine smaller products as below to achieve similar great results for efficiency in mass processing. I have remained generic and not to mention brands as either the open source or proprietry products will return good results.

The big hold up has been getting GOOD free opensource/freeware OCR software. We now have it in the form of FreeOCR downloadable from paperfile http://www.paperfile.net.


This software allows you to scan all documents into word format extracting the text automatically and works with pictures too. It uses the tesseract OCR engine which is at the following GitHub page http://code.google.com/p/tesseract-ocr/ and can be compiled into your own software creation for the aspiring coders amongst us.

Lets say you want to scan CCTV footage for registrations of people coming and going through a gate, Simply turn the video into images (maybe using VLC) and load the saved images into FreeOCR. Hit the OCR button and it will convert any text in the images to a text file.

This might be a good idea for automated scanning of CCTV footage after a crime to find witnesses.

Another alternative use would be for BIM and scanning asset tags or data plates. Lets say you have some georeferenced images taken with something like a SPECTRA SP20 you would be able to cross refer the OCR recovered Model and Serial number with the GeoTag in the images Metadata in an automated way to geolocate the asset data in the database.

You would already have to have an asset database to query but  you could add assets like this too.

Maybe you could automate cheaply using a GoPro Hero5 (or later) set to Linear or Medium Field Of View, 50 Frames Per second and good forward lighting. You would also need a piece of software that uses tesseract and will record the frame or picture number against the OCR output and image metadata including GPS data.I mention this method with a GoPro example as you could use the same video footage as you take for photogrammetric modelling where the results would improve with the better camera and also records the Geolocation. If you need a GoPro, they now supply the Hero7 12MP on Amazon. Click the image below to see the listing and the Specs.

This Photogrammetric modelling would provide the basis for the 3D virtualised world engine for self operated robots later.

Now Moving on from data collection, imagine if robots could read languages and understand, orientate and operate themselves with OCR or feature extraction with 360 cameras, then we are talking that we are close to robots automated operations in changing environments.

Now lets combine other work with driverless cars and the virtualised world engine, we are talking about fully autonomous vehicles or self operated machines in a variable world.

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