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Some notes on making Books readable

From: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 04:16:30 +0200
To: www-archive@w3.org
Message-ID: <rjvmo7pscf5jj9f2qrhngpdrnhgm5b7hg4@hive.bjoern.hoehrmann.de>

  I found some time to whip up a script that compares Internet Archive
public domain books with the corresponding Google plain text. The basic
script is at <https://gist.github.com/2395307>, rather quick and dirty,
but it does the job. It generates a JSON file for each page, like

    "pars" : [
       "lines" : [
          "words" : [
             "width"  : 147,
             "x"      : "790",
             "height" : 54,
             "y"      : "593",
             "word"   : "aller",
             "scan"   : "data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUh...",
             "google_words" : [
             "chars" : [
                "width"  : 32,
                "y"      : "608",
                "scan"   : "data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAAA...",
                "char"   : "a",
                "x"      : "790",
                "height" : 38,
                "code"   : 97

And I adapted my earlier script to produce some a visual diff, now with
the image data as third alternative, to get a better sense of errors in
the text and what might be done to fix them. I've attached the output
for a sample page (I used my http://cutycapt.sf.net utility to make the
shot, but didn't care much to make the style sheet compatible with the
Webkit version I've compiled it with, so it looks a bit messy).

I put in some extra code to deal with hyphenation, the Internet Archive
version keeps the hyphens but Google seems to remove them, which con-
fuses the diff algorithm I made and used. Punctuation is still a bit of
a similar issue, I am not sure how to address that yet, some words are
misrecognized as ending in punctuation even though they don't, so it'd
not be quite as simple as always splitting, say, non-letters from the

Some error patterns are quite obvious, names for instance are rendered
cursive in the book and very typically misinterpreted, commas and full
stops are often confused, 'c' and 'e', 'a' and 'n', 's' and 'z' and 't'
are, 'z' and 'x' are aswell, the Internet Archive tool likes to take an
's' for a guillemet when at the end of a word. With the confusion rules
if you will, you can for instance easily see that when Google sees a
word like "nltc", n<>a and c<>e gives "alte" as only interpretation if
you expect a proper german word, "Urstammc" is "Urstamme", and so on.

Algorithm::Diff's 'sdiff' would produce for the last example a series
of instructions, "u U U", "u r r", ... "c c e" meaning unchanged, "U"
in both at this position, change "c" into "e". If we run that over all
the words in the reference book these come out at the top:

  1364 c       e       c
  1288 c       n       u
  1188 c       a       u
  1028 c       t       l
   873 c       a       n
   853 c       t       s
   784 c       e       s
   671 c       ,       .
   608 c       a       s
   577 c       e       o
   537 c       i       ä
   536 c       m       n
   533 c       k       h
   508 c       t       i
   405 c       o       a
   401 c       8       3

Google is on the right, so looking back at "nltc", in this short list
that would go as [nma][lt][t][ce], giving these options:

  nltc nlte nttc ntte mltc mlte
  mttc mtte altc alte attc atte

of these, only "alte" is a proper german word, and that's what the In-
ternet Archive saw, so there is a good chance, as the Internet Archive
guesses tend to be quite good, that "alte" is indeed correct. This can
also be used to spot possible cases where the two agree on the wrong
interpretation, an example I spotted was "Tondcrn". The c<>e confusion
is the most common, so that might be "Tondern", which is a town in Den-
mark, which is indeed what the text references. The 4-gram "dcrn" isn't
likely to appear in german text, that would be another clue.

Grepping Google's n-gram data, "dcrn" does occur as part of some words,
"Aendcrnng" (probably Aenderung), "Besondcrn" (Besondern), "Hindcrniß"
(Hinderniß), "Ländcrn" (Ländern), "Postmodcrne" (Postmoderne), in all
the cases, unless you hit the occasional code word or perhaps something
like this mail discussing OCR errors, it's basically wrong.

The bigram "dc" alone is already rather unusual, in the book, as far as
the Google plaintext goes, it appears only 101 times, properly only in
the form of "dch" like in Mädchen. In contrast, "de" occurs 9923 times.

More interesting cases, going by the attached image, are words like the
"unverfälscht", "untermischt", "unvermischt" (IA, Google, actual). All
three are proper words (literally, unfalsified, undermixed, undiluted),
and "unverfälscht" even makes sense in context, if you ignore that it's
a book from the 19th century, one could even argue "unverfälscht" is
more likely to be correct (and semantically they are quite similar in
this context). This would require a bit of a visual, geometrical solu-
tion; it's pretty clear that the "v" looks nothing like the "t" at the
end of the word, the "t" is higher, thicker at the bottom, and the "m"
is too small, too thick, and too dense to be an "f", even if you think
the "m" is "fä", it's too short, the "f" in the preceding "friesische"
clearly extends far beyond the top of an "m".

The JSON output generated by my script makes it easy to access the in-
dividual graphemes the OCR software recognized, thankfully both at the
word and at the grapheme level, the Internet Archive data has both but
in separate files with no direct link between them. I decided to ignore
the word-shape data and just took the bounding box of the glyphs on the
same line. I conducted a few experiments exploiting that (well, really,
I wrote a script that does just the extraction of individual glyphs, I
later combined several ad-hoc scripts into the result above, which is
why it's a bit of a mess). An interesting data point for instance is
that around 90% of the monochrome grapheme bitmaps are unique. I wonder
how more modern prints compare.

I particularily had a brief look at clustering, like taking all "k"s,
computing the average "k", and then compute the euclidean distance of
all "k"s to the average "k", and order them according to distance. That
produced fairly good results, putting the regular "k"s at the top, and 
putting cursive "k"s a bit after the middle, and things clearly not "k"
at the end, with the occasional stray "h" and "b" inbetween. An option
there would be to split the "k" cluster at some point and then compute
new averages, re-assign to the new clusters; like I noted earlier, it'd
be interesting to separate regular and cursive for identification pur-
poses, and then treating both as "k" (or, more sophisticated, actually
treating the italics as italics).

A simpler thing would be applying this to the "unverfälscht", "unter-
mischt", "unvermischt" problem above, take the average of all "t"s in
the book and the average of all "v"s in the book, and then check which
is closer, which should resolve that particular issue. It might be good
enough to simply take the average of the letters on the same page to do
this, though for some letters that's not enough data, there is only one
"q" on this page, only one "y" (two, but one is misidentified).

Well, I'm bored now, but as a conclusion, let's say this OCR business
does not seem to be administered by your proverbial rocket scientists.
Björn Höhrmann · mailto:bjoern@hoehrmann.de · http://bjoern.hoehrmann.de
Am Badedeich 7 · Telefon: +49(0)160/4415681 · http://www.bjoernsworld.de
25899 Dagebüll · PGP Pub. KeyID: 0xA4357E78 · http://www.websitedev.de/ 

(image/png attachment: sample.png)

Received on Monday, 16 April 2012 02:16:53 UTC

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