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Thursday
Apr282011

Hands-on: OCR with the new Google Docs Android App and the Motorola Xoom tablet

Yesterday (April 27, 2011), Google released their Google Docs app for Android and once interesting feature they added was to create documents from photos. This uses OCR run on Google's servers to create text documents from the photos you take.

 

image

 

So, let's try it in action with the Xoom tablet. My test document in this case was the back of the book Visio 2003's Developer Survival Pack by Graham Wideman – which fyi is only about $8 when purchased as a Kindle book.

 

Start the Google Docs application by clicking on the blue Docs icon shown below

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Then click on the Document icon in the upper right.

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Then click Document from photo

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The normal Android UI for taking a photo will appear. Take the photo and press Ok.

 

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And then you'll see that you can modify the title of the document and which account it will be sent to. Press Ok at the bottom of this screen (not shown in photo)

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About 15 to 30 seconds later you'll see that the document is now in your Google docs folder.

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Opening the doc will show you both the image and the text created from the OCR process.

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The quality of the OCR is reasonable good for what it has to contend with – blurry pictures taken from bad digital cameras under terrible lighting conditions and at weird angles with distorted text. It's surprising it works this well.

 

Here is the actual text that it recognized via OCR. I've highlighted the errors in orange. I was disappointed it didn't correctly handle the bulleted items at all. Also notice that at some point the OCR just gave up – there's a huge section of text at the bottom of the photo that isn't in the text at all. I assume this is due to the skew and distortion of the letters in that part of the photo.

 

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