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It just needs to know which groups of chunks represent real letters and which are bogus.
To teach the software this, the researchers turned to an unusual source of help: high schoolers.
In size and scope, the collection is almost peerless.
This process, as the team recently outlined in a paper, breaks words down not into letters but something closer to individual pen strokes.
The OCR does this by dividing each word into a series of vertical and horizontal bands and looking for local minimums—the thinner portions, where there’s less ink (or really, fewer pixels).
The software then carves the letters at these joints.
The students didn’t even need to be able to read Latin. At first, “the idea of involving high-school students was considered foolish,” says Merialdo, who dreamed up In Codice Ratio.
“But now the machine is learning thanks to their efforts.