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FYI, the ROI for ICR … or Why Acronyms Should Be Used Sparingly

September 17, 2012

The Filster

Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: I hate acronyms. You’d think they’d be useful in clarifying and shortening speech, but most times it seems they only serve to hide the speaker’s own inability to be clear.  In other words, the very thing that makes them useful is also what makes them so utterly detestable when overused.

Technology, in the very broad sense, is undoubtedly one of the domains where the use of acronyms is the most widespread. And by some strange twist of faith, technology also happens to suffer from the same shortcoming as acronyms: if you overuse it, it’s gonna bite you in the proverbial behind.

To prove my point, let’s examine one such technology (and acronym): ICR.

ICR stands for Intelligent Character Recognition. You have to admit it sounds pretty ominous: a technology that’s self proclaiming intelligence. How could anyone possibly overuse something intelligent, right?

For those who might not be familiar with ICR, let’s summarize it quickly: it’s kind of like OCR (which stands for Optical Character Recognition, a much less pretentious denomination IMHO… oops, sorry about that one!) except instead of working solely with static images of characters, it also uses information about the method that was used to actually draw a character (the speed, the number and the order of strokes). So its intelligence lies in its ability to recognize that certain characters can only be drawn a certain way. Even if your 8’s or your capital G’s don’t look like much, ICR can often make sense of them. That’s something my poor old grade school teacher would have found really helpful while correcting my weekly dictations.

Turning What You Write Digital

There’s a wonderful little device out there called an Anoto digital pen, which is just like a standard ball-point pen – only a bit bulkier – and which records everything you write as you write it. It doesn’t take snapshots, mind you: it records the entire path information you are drawing as you write on a special kind of pattern. It’s a great little tool because you not only have a paper copy of what you wrote – obviously, since it’s also a ball-point pen – but you also automatically have a digital representation of that handwriting.

Now if you’re like me (i.e. prone to jumping to conclusions without having actually analyzed all the facts), then you’re already thinking that if you feed the information from the pen to some kind of automated ICR process, then you’ll automatically get an accurate, already digitized representation of what you wrote. Pretty cool, right? Well… maybe not so much…

You know, that novel you always wanted to write but for which you can only find inspiration while sitting on a beach with a paper pad, a pen and a beer? Well wouldn’t it be nice if you could use that almost-standard pen to create an actual manuscript (which you’ll eventually sell for a zillion dollars after you become famous) without having to retype everything in a word processing application once you’re done? It would be nice indeed. But I have one question for you: would you allow this intelligent technology to digitize everything and send it directly to your publisher without reviewing it first?

Never Overuse Technology

I didn’t think so. That novel of yours, you’d probably want to review it before sending it to be published. Just to make sure, because even if the ICR technology you’re using is the mostest absolutest bestest system in the universe, you wouldn’t trust it blindly. If you did, it would be a prime instance of overusing a technology : just because it can do some stuff doesn’t mean you want it to do all of it, all of the time.

Still, once you’ve reviewed whatever the technology captured, you’ll probably find that after making a few corrections, you’ve got the entire thing digitized and ready for publication. So in the end, your ROI is pretty good: you only had to review the results and make a few changes instead of having to retype everything from scratch.

So when you’re looking for the ROI on ICR, or any other technology for that matter, don’t just look at whether it can do everything on its own. Rather, see how much time it saves you even if it doesn’t handle everything automatically.

GTG… TTYL (I just had to conclude with a few more of them acronyms… LOL)

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