Planar Hidden Markov Modeling: From Speech to Optical Character Recognition

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 5 (NIPS 1992)

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Esther Levin, Roberto Pieraccini


We propose in this paper a statistical model (planar hidden Markov model - PHMM) describing statistical properties of images. The model generalizes the single-dimensional HMM, used for speech processing, to the planar case. For this model to be useful an efficient segmentation algorithm, similar to the Viterbi algorithm for HMM, must exist We present conditions in terms of the PHMM parameters that are sufficient to guarantee that the planar segmentation problem can be solved in polynomial time, and describe an algorithm for that. This algorithm aligns optimally the image with the model, and therefore is insensitive to elastic distortions of images. Using this algorithm a joint optima1 segmentation and recognition of the image can be performed, thus overcoming the weakness of traditional OCR systems where segmentation is performed independently before the recognition leading to unrecoverable recognition errors.

Tbe PHMM approach was evaluated using a set of isolated band-written digits. An overall digit recognition accuracy of 95% was acbieved. An analysis of the results showed that even in the simple case of recognition of isolated characters, the elimination of elastic distortions enhances the performance Significantly. We expect that the advantage of this approach will be even more such as connected writing recognition/spotting, for whicb there is no known high accuracy method of recognition.