Date: August 2015
Creator: Bristow, Kelly H.
Description: Optical character recognition (OCR) software has advanced greatly in recent years. Machine-printed text can be scanned and converted to searchable text with word accuracy rates around 98%. Reasonably neat hand-printed text can be recognized with about 85% word accuracy. However, cursive handwriting still remains a challenge, with state-of-the-art performance still around 75%. Algorithms based on hidden Markov models have been only moderately successful, while recurrent neural networks have delivered the best results to date. This thesis explored the feasibility of using a special type of feedforward neural network to convert freeform cursive handwriting to searchable text. The hidden nodes in this network were grouped into clusters, with each cluster being trained to recognize a unique character bigram. The network was trained on writing samples that were pre-segmented and annotated. Post-processing was facilitated in part by using the network to identify overlapping bigrams that were then linked together to form words and sentences. With dictionary assisted post-processing, the network achieved word accuracy of 66.5% on a small, proprietary corpus. The contributions in this thesis are threefold: 1) the novel clustered architecture of the feed-forward neural network, 2) the development of an expanded set of observers combining image masks, modifiers, and feature ...
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