What Is OCR And What Is It Used For?

In this day and age, artificial intelligence (AI) is seeing a huge boom – and, one of the applications of this technology is evidenced in OCR. But, what is OCR, and what is it used for? Let’s take a look. 

What is OCR?

OCR stands for optical character recognition. Put simply, it is an engine or software that converts an image of specific characters and text into a text format that can be read by a machine. 

There are four main types of OCR software: simple OCR, which picks up characters; machine-learning-based intelligent recognition software (ICR); intelligent word recognition, which is essentially ICR but with the ability to read full words; and optical mark recognition (OMR), which also reads symbols and branding elements. That said, generally speaking, the way the process works is pretty similar. 

Firstly, a scanner will capture the image, and translate it into binary data, before looking at the image to determine the areas of the image that are light and dark. In most cases, the characters will be dark, and printed on a white background, such as a printed document or receipt. However, this can vary depending on the application. 

For example, in live dealer roulette, OCR is used to read the number that the roulette wheel lands on, recording the result of each spin. In order for the OCR platform to read the roulette wheel, in this scenario, it will be programmed to recognize that the background will be red or black (or green, depending on your chosen style of roulette), and the characters will be white. 

Next, the software processes the image by ensuring that it is properly aligned and smooth. This then allows the OCR algorithm to read the characters in the image, either by feature extraction or pattern matching.

As you might have deduced, pattern matching involves matching the character against a bank of inputted characters, whereas feature extraction extracts the features – the lines, loops, convergence, and so on – in order to find a match. 

The characters are then converted into text data, displaying what the OCR system has read. In some cases, you can then convert this into a text document in order to edit it, should you require this functionality. 

What is it used for? 

As previously mentioned, one application of OCR is in online live casino games. The digitized text is stored to record each result, which allows the live dealer or croupier to keep track of the game and to better answer player questions, and allows the casino platform to record winners and prizes. In addition, it can be used to make the gameplay more immersive for the player, showing results, their hand of cards, betting chips, and more, on the player’s screen. 

OCR technology is also utilized by businesses that work with a large volume of printed data, particular industries or departments like human resources, insurance, and finance. Instead of having to store endless paperwork, receipts, or printed media, OCR can read the documents so you can store them digitally.

In some ways, this process might already be done in these businesses using a scanner. However, scanning documents requires manual operation, an often large time allocation, and only typically stores the file as an image. Instead, OCR is automated and stores the document as a text file, increasing productivity. 

OCR can also be used in logistics or e-commerce applications, as it can automatically read address labels, supplier invoices, customer receipts, and more so that you can more accurately track parcels, income, and expenditure.