Optical Recognition

Optical and Intelligent Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology has been used in commercial applications for nearly fifty years and uses OCR fonts (such as OCR-A and OCR-B) instead of bar codes for automated data entry. The fonts are electronically scanned and digitized into ASCII characters.

With the advent of the personal computer, OCR technology has expanded in translating other stylized fonts such as Courier, Times Roman, etc. that are commonly found in newspapers, magazines, and other reading materials. Many manufacturers now describe this as Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) since today's OCR equipment is much more capable and much more powerful.

There are three categories of OCR/ICR readers: transaction readers, page readers, and hand-held readers. Transaction readers scan relatively short character streams and have the highest accuracy of all three types of readers. Page scanners digitize pages of text. Hand-held scanners are primarily used when transaction scanners are impractical and too expensive to use. Hand-held scanners also allow the user to have greater flexibility in scanning data outside a relative boundary or fixed position, for example, locating and reading the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) found on most published books which is printed usually somewhere on the back cover.

OCR/ICR is better suited in applications where human readability is required and where it is impractical to convert to bar codes. One of the most common OCR fonts, E-13B (MICR), is found at the bottom of nearly all personal checks and frequently used in point of sale, payment processing, and libraries.