IBM and EU expand digitisation collaboration

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IBM and the EU have expanded their research collaboration to provide new technology that will enable highly-accurate digitisation of rare and culturally significant historical texts on a massive scale. The collaboration now includes more than two dozen national libraries, research institutes, universities, and companies across Europe.

According to IBM, IMPACT (IMProving ACcess to Text) will offer new tools and best practices to institutions across Europe that will enable them to efficiently and accurately continue to produce quality digital replicas of historically significant texts and make them widely available, editable and searchable online.  

Funded by the EU, IMPACT's research combines the power of web-enabled adaptive optical character recognition (OCR) software with crowd computing technology. The latter fast-growing concept is designed around individuals, or 'crowds,' enhancing a process or product by sharing their knowledge and expertise to improve its quality and efficiency. Combined, these technologies will allow institutions to adapt digitisation to the idiosyncrasies of old fonts, anomalies and even vocabularies–while reducing error rates by 35 per cent and substitution rates by 75 per cent.

'IMPACT is remarkable in that it not only allows these prominent centers of culture to ultimately bring people closer to perhaps never before seen historically significant texts of heritage - but because it actually allows these people to become part of the preservation process,' said Tal Drory, manager of the document processing group at IBM Research in Haifa.