OCR with Webcam

OCR with Ubiquitous Webcam

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology has matured to include digital image processing and with the kind of processing power available in the average Personal computer, it should come as no surprise that in these days the accuracy of the OCR exceeds 99 %.


Typically most software commercial or free would require that you use a TWAIN compliant scanner to capture the image you want to use for converting to editable text. For best results this might be the only way as you need to present the best possible image for the OCR software to work upon. You will need to acquire black and white or grayscale image as color information would confound the OCR process.


In case your software has any issues working with your scanner, you can still save the scanned image in a TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) format and invoke the OCR software with this TIFF file. Most image editing tools will have no problem converting the images to this TIFF format.


When you are in the office, it would not be an issue to use the services of a desktop scanner to convert the magazine page or newspaper page to electronic format. Many a time you would see when you are traveling – a magazine article or a newspaper page which would be ideal to illustrate your stand. Only thing that would stop you is the lack of accessibility to a desktop scanner. You don’t have to wring your hand in despair anymore.

Your Laptop may already be equipped to take care of not only the means of capturing the newspaper/magazine page, but also the requisite software to convert the acquired image to editable text format. I wanted to do a bit of test in this line and this is what I found out.


I have a Laptop with barebones software installed and not too many techno wiz attachments. The notebook is equipped with a 1.3 mega pixel (extrapolated resolution) Web camera and MS Office installed amongst other things. A typical scenario.


I used the webcam to “capture” this image displayed here from an old magazine. You can see from the faded sepia toned color that the magazine must have been sitting at the shelf for ages. Again the choice of this torn page was deliberate to demonstrate that if we can get any decent result from such a faded magazine page, you should get far better results with a better recent subject.

OCR with Webcam

Now you need an OCR software to complete the conversion process. You need to look no further than the standard MS office software suite for this.

Click on All Programs – > Microsoft Office – > Microsoft Office Tools – > Microsoft Document Imaging

You will have a “free” OCR software here and it will take the above image acquired from the Webcam. Just click on Page from the top menu and select the and you will get the following page:

OCR software

Click on Tools – > Recognize Text using OCR and it will have converted the image into editable text ready to be ported to MS Word. Click again on Tools – > Send Text to Word and your MS Word will fire up with the converted text.

This is what mine did at the end of the exercise:

A T one tirn, p!opIe
did&t daw to svar
t3eMhe’r—go1d’ look. But
rw dlnw gold teamed
pLItinuTn or white
ldz so in, and Ioks so
good, u
wonder why it
took u so long. At InterCold. there i a .triking rngi. of unfussy, elcg.mt jcseItery rings. earrin. chair . and pvidant in theit very f fordable Career Carals range. embellished with diamond and pearls. Prices begin at R 3.)OO. And for tho thinking of tying the knot, it you haven’t chcn our wedding nng yet, take a peek at the ‘Rings for E1rnitv’ range. You’ll go mad trying to make up your mind…

Not too good – You would say. But you had supplied a color image in the first place. With a bit of image manipulation and a grayscale image the eventual outcome is almost 85 % accurate. Not bad for a basic web cam based OCR.

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