I have written recently about my experiences with voice recognition. With advanced software technology and computers with virtually unlimited computational speed, voice recognition (VR) is a reality. It has gone past the interesting experimental stage into a practical daily-use type tool. Presently, my iPhone and other devices talk to me on a regular basis and they haven't carted me away yet to the funny farm.
What about optical character recognition or OCR? I haven't said much about OCR for a while, mainly because it is ubiquitous. I guess I have taken it for granted for some time now. I can take almost any page of printed text and turn it into a computer text file in just a few seconds. As genealogists, we live with massive amounts of OCR text in the form of digitized books and newspapers. Most large businesses use some form of OCR to handle routine mail.
But what about handwriting? Some handwriting recognition software already is in use on a daily basis by such entities as the U.S. Postal Service's system for reading handwritten addresses and ZIP codes. But reading a document such as the probate inventory shown above is still an unattained goal. But it might be getting closer. I received a short note from Cliff Shaw at Mocavo.com. Apparently, Mocavo.com is working on some breakthroughs in handwriting recognition. Here is a quote from Cliff to me:
A little over a year ago, Mocavo acquired ReadyMicro and the incredible mind known as Matt Garner. One of Matt’s lifelong passions and curiosities is to enable computers to read historical handwritten documents to bring genealogy search to the next level. It’s well known in the genealogy industry that historical handwriting recognition is the Holy Grail – the single largest technological advancement that would enable more content to become accessible online (except for maybe the invention of the Web). For the past year, we’ve joined with Matt to tackle this very hard problem, and have finally made enough progress that we can begin to report on it.Mocavo.com is making an announcement today about their progress and I will let you read what they have to say in the complete press release or post.
I know they are not the only ones working on this technology, but they may be the only ones in the genealogy community that are pushing this technology in a practical way. For my part, I hope they keep at the problem and solve it. I have tens of thousands of pages of handwritten letters that could benefit from this technology.