Multi-digit Number Recognition from Street View Imagery using Deep Convolutional Neural Networks
Recognizing arbitrary multi-character text in unconstrained natural photographs is a hard problem. In this paper, we address an equally hard sub-problem in this domain viz. recognizing arbitrary multi-digit numbers from Street View imagery. Traditional approaches to solve this problem typically separate out the localiza- tion, segmentation, and recognition steps. In this paper we propose a unified ap- proach that integrates these three steps via the use of a deep convolutional neu- ral network that operates directly on the image pixels. We employ the DistBe- lief (Dean et al., 2012) implementation of deep neural networks in order to train large, distributed neural networks on high quality images. We find that the per- formance of this approach increases with the depth of the convolutional network, with the best performance occurring in the deepest architecture we trained, with eleven hidden layers. We evaluate this approach on the publicly available SVHN dataset and achieve over 96% accuracy in recognizing complete street numbers. We show that on a per-digit recognition task, we improve upon the state-of-the-art and achieve 97.84% accuracy. We also evaluate this approach on an even more challenging dataset generated from Street View imagery containing several tens of millions of street number annotations and achieve over 90% accuracy. Our evaluations further indicate that at specific operating thresholds, the performance of the proposed system is comparable to that of human operators. To date, our system has helped us extract close to 100 million physical street numbers from Street View imagery worldwide.