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Recognition of Handwritten Chinese Text by Segmentation: A Segment-annotation-free Approach

by   Dezhi Peng, et al.
HUAWEI Technologies Co., Ltd.
South China University of Technology International Student Union

Online and offline handwritten Chinese text recognition (HTCR) has been studied for decades. Early methods adopted oversegmentation-based strategies but suffered from low speed, insufficient accuracy, and high cost of character segmentation annotations. Recently, segmentation-free methods based on connectionist temporal classification (CTC) and attention mechanism, have dominated the field of HCTR. However, people actually read text character by character, especially for ideograms such as Chinese. This raises the question: are segmentation-free strategies really the best solution to HCTR? To explore this issue, we propose a new segmentation-based method for recognizing handwritten Chinese text that is implemented using a simple yet efficient fully convolutional network. A novel weakly supervised learning method is proposed to enable the network to be trained using only transcript annotations; thus, the expensive character segmentation annotations required by previous segmentation-based methods can be avoided. Owing to the lack of context modeling in fully convolutional networks, we propose a contextual regularization method to integrate contextual information into the network during the training stage, which can further improve the recognition performance. Extensive experiments conducted on four widely used benchmarks, namely CASIA-HWDB, CASIA-OLHWDB, ICDAR2013, and SCUT-HCCDoc, show that our method significantly surpasses existing methods on both online and offline HCTR, and exhibits a considerably higher inference speed than CTC/attention-based approaches.


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