, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1–27 | Cite as

Recognizing text in raster maps

  • Yao-Yi ChiangEmail author
  • Craig A. Knoblock


Text labels in maps provide valuable geographic information by associating place names with locations. This information from historical maps is especially important since historical maps are very often the only source of past information about the earth. Recognizing the text labels is challenging because heterogeneous raster maps have varying image quality and complex map contents. In addition, the labels within a map do not follow a fixed orientation and can have various font types and sizes. Previous approaches typically handle a specific type of map or require intensive manual work. This paper presents a general approach that requires a small amount of user effort to semi-automatically recognize text labels in heterogeneous raster maps. Our approach exploits a few examples of text areas to extract text pixels and employs cartographic labeling principles to locate individual text labels. Each text label is then rotated automatically to horizontal and processed by conventional OCR software for character recognition. We compared our approach to a state-of-art commercial OCR product using 15 raster maps from 10 sources. Our evaluation shows that our approach enabled the commercial OCR product to handle raster maps and together produced significant higher text recognition accuracy than using the commercial OCR alone.


GIS OCR Raster maps Text recognition Map processing 



This research is based upon work supported in part by the University of Southern California under the Viterbi School of Engineering Doctoral Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Spatial Sciences InstituteUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computer Science, Information Sciences Institute, and Spatial Sciences InstituteUniversity of Southern CaliforniaMarina del ReyUSA

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