Current tools classify or “tag” either text or images so they can be processed; but until now no one has combined the two effectively, according to Marco Bressan, a computer scientist who led the research team at Xerox Research Centre Europe. By linking image and text-based content, Xerox’s new software technology significantly improves fundamental document management tasks like retrieving information from a database or automatically routing documents. The result? More complete searches and streamlined business processes.
For example, if a brochure from an isolated hotel in the French Alps describes the hotel’s features and includes maps and pictures of mountainous surroundings, the categoriser will automatically discover the content and link the text and the images together. Then someone searching for an isolated mountain lodge within a certain price range would retrieve the brochure even if "isolated lodge in the mountains" were never mentioned in the actual text.
The research aligns with Xerox’s goal of developing smarter documents to make information-based work easier, more efficient and more effective. Bressan believes there are many uses for the new categorisation software.
“Suppose a traveller wants to combine vacation photos with a journal to produce an annotated photo album or photoblog recapping vacation highlights,” said Bressan. “Because the Xerox categoriser handles both text and visuals, it can identify the photos, automatically match them to the written text and then enrich the visuals with additional information via hyperlinks to a knowledge base such as Wikipedia.”
A second application, according to Bressan, could be at Xerox’s imaging centres, where the company scans and digitises documents to create secure, accessible and searchable online information archives for its customers. Currently the process of scanning, labelling and indexing documents is partially supervised by operators. Hybrid categorisation can streamline document management in this application, improving accuracy and eliminating manual operations.
Enabling Xerox’s hybrid categoriser are recent advances in machine learning and pattern recognition, advances in computer vision and the large body of hybrid content now available. XRCE has extensive experience with text categorisation and, in 2005, demonstrated the industry’s first generic image categoriser. The new categoriser combines earlier text and image categorisers to handle hybrid content, with powerful results.
“Xerox’s hybrid categoriser creates a shared knowledge space between text and images,” said Bressan. “The textual information enriches the visual, and the visual information enriches the textual. The whole is ultimately greater than the sum of the parts.”
The software remains under development. Xerox has filed a number of patents on the technology.
The Xerox Innovation Group conducts work in colour science, computing, digital imaging, electromechanical systems, novel materials, linguistics, work practice analysis and nanotechnology connected to Xerox's expertise in printing and document management. For more information, visit http://www.xerox.com/innovation.
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Kevin Perlmutter, Xerox Europe, tel: +44 (0)1895 845 219, email: Kevin.Perlmutter@xerox.com
Irene Maxwell, Xerox Research Centre Europe, tel +33 (0)476 615 083, email Irene.Maxwell@xerox.com