Binarization-free Text Line Extraction for Historical Manuscripts

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Nikolaos Arvanitopoulos Darginis

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

  2. 2. Sabine Süsstrunk

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

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1 Introduction

Nowadays, large collections of old historical manuscripts, which contain valuable information about our cultural heritage, exist in libraries around the world. Recently, there has been much interest in their digitization for preservation reasons, since many of the available manuscripts’ quality has deteriorated from exposure to the environment. Digitization though is only the first step to make the information contained in manuscripts accessible to researchers and to the interested public. What we create after digitization is only a “digital image” of the page and further processing steps need to be applied during the handwriting recognition process, so that the manuscript’s content is transformed into a form that is interpretable by a computer.
One important step in the handwriting recognition process is that of text line extraction, which aims at extracting individual text lines from the manuscript page. In this paper, we propose a binarization-free text line extraction method using seam carving. The main idea is to compute an energy map of the input text blocks and determine minimum energy paths that pass through them. The energy map is constructed in a way so that gaps between text lines have low energy values. Therefore, a minimum energy path will pass only through these regions and will successfully separate two text lines.
Our algorithm has the following two advantages:
1. We make direct use of the original image representation of the manuscript page without any need for prior binarization, which can introduce information loss. This loss can produce unreliable results for the text line extraction algorithm (see Figure 1).
2. Our algorithm is general and can be applied to diverse manuscripts of different time periods and handwritings. Results in Figures 3 and 4 show the applicability of our algorithm to diverse historical manuscripts.
2 Related Work

We briefly summarize the research that has already been done for text line extraction.
Most of the state-of-the-art approaches operate on a binary image of the historical manuscript. One method based on dynamic programming computes the paths with minimum cost between two consecutive lines [11] and has been extensively used in automatic transcription and ground truth creation of historical documents [8, 7]. The work of [6] is based on horizontal projection profiles of black pixel changes. An additional post-processing step is applied, which follows the contour of the ink obtaining curve-linear line separators. Another similar approach is proposed in [13] where the output of the horizontal projections is post-processed based on properties of the computed connected components. The works of [12, 10] are based on the Hough transform, which is able to detect straight lines in images. Smearing methods, such as the ones in [17, 16, 14], try to fill-in the white pixel gaps with black pixels if their distance is less than a threshold. That way, homogeneous blocks of the document page are grouped together. Other approaches use multi-oriented filters and active contours for text line extraction [4, 5].

Fig. 1: Left: seams generated using the original scanned image of the manuscript as input. Right: seams generated using a binary version of the original manuscript scan as input. The information loss in the binary version is so extensive that the generated seams do not clearly separate text lines of the original manuscript scan.
A notable exception of an algorithm, which does not depend on binarization, is the work of, where the text lines are found using extracted features from interest points of the original manuscript image. A very recent work uses a framework similar to that in adapted this time to the text line extraction problem.
Our method is closely related to the one in, where the authors use seam carving to generate seams that pass through connected components of a binary image. Unclassified components, which do not belong to any text line are assigned in a post-processing step according to their position and geometric characteristics. The main difference in our approach is that we do not need to binarize the input, which can lead to information loss. Additionally, we are able to generate robust text contours even for manuscripts of deteriorated quality (see Figures 1, 4). The text contours can always be overlaid on the original manuscript scan, even if they have been generated using as input a binarized version of the original scan. However, the technique of , which assigns text components to lines is not able to extract lines from the original manuscript, since the binarization process is not reversible. Binary text components contain only a subset of the information available in the original manuscript image.
3 Our Approach

Our proposed algorithm is inspired by Seam Carving, a computer vision algorithm used for image resizing [1]. We build upon this idea and propose a seam carving algorithm, which operates on the original color image and extracts lines in a sequential way. First, an energy map is calculated and the minimum energy path is computed based on dynamic programming. From the peaks of the horizontal projection profile of the derivative image we can find horizontal line positions. In each such region between two consecutive lines, we apply our seam carving algorithm sequentially until the whole manuscript image has been processed. In Figure 2 we show some examples of seams between two such lines.

Fig. 2: Examples of image blocks and their computed seams.
In the following we use the convention that an image I ∊ ℝ n×m converted to grayscale has n rows and m columns. The notation I(i,j) denotes the image value at the i-th row and j-th column. The coordinate system has its origin in the upper left corner of the image.
3.1 Energy Map

We modify the energy function proposed in [1] so that it can be effectively used for generating text line separation contours. First, we compute an edge image as

Let us denote the energy map between two text lines by Eb = E(J,:) ∊ Rl×m, where J = {s,...,e} is the set of i coordinates between the start and the end of the energy block map and l = e - s + 1. This energy block is weighted by the following linear function, which penalizes the larger i coordinates more:

and the final energy map for this block is

The idea behind this weighting is the observation that we want our seam to be closer to the upper line than the lower one. This will correct for situations where the author has written words in the gap between lines, which always belong to the lower line (see Figure 2a).
3.2 Seam Computation

A seam that passes horizontally through an image block can be defined as

The seam computation is done using dynamic programming. We look for the optimal seam in the image block that minimizes

The first step is to traverse the image block and compute the cumulative minimum energy Mb for all possible connected seams for each pixel position:

The minimum value of the last column in Mb will indicate the end of the minimal connected horizontal seam. Therefore, in the second step we traverse the cumulative energy Mb backwards to find the path of the optimal seam.
4 Experimental Results

We apply our algorithm to original manuscript pages of the work Aline by the important Swiss-French writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. Some examples of manuscript pages overlaid with the text line extraction seams are shown in Figure 3. We observe that our algorithm creates seams that pass through parchment regions, successfully segmenting the text lines. Even when the writer corrects a line or a word and writes above, the seam is able to avoid cutting the text and assigns the word to the line below it. In order to illustrate the ability of the algorithm to generalize to diverse manuscripts, we provide in Figure 4 results on manuscripts of the 16-th and 18-th century. We observe that our algorithm can be applied to manuscripts of very different quality and handwriting styles.

Fig. 9: Seam carving results on two pages of Aline (1905), C.F. Ramuz.

Fig. 10: Seam carving results on manuscripts of the 16-th and 18-th century respectively. Even in the lower left manuscript with extreme bleed-through, our algorithm is able to produce a robust result.
5 Conclusion

We propose a novel text line extraction algorithm for color scans of historical manuscripts based on seam carving. We show that we can obtain state-of-the-art results on these color images without any prior binarization. The next step after the text line extraction process is the application of a learning algorithm for handwritten word recognition in each extracted text line.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

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Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO