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Francisco Alvaro. Mathematical Expression Recognition based on Probabilistic Grammars. Universitat Politècnica de València. 2015. Supervised by Dr. Joan Andreu Sánchez and Prof. José Miguel Benedí

Mathematical notation is well-known and used all over the world. Humankind has evolved from simple methods representing countings to current well-defined math notation able to account for complex problems. Furthermore, mathematical expressions constitute an universal language in scientific fields, and many information resources containing mathematics have been created during the last decades. However, in order to efficiently access all that information, scientific documents have to be digitized or produced directly in electronic formats. Although most people is able to understand and produce mathematical information, introducing math expressions into electronic devices requires learning specific notations or using editors. Automatic recognition of mathematical expressions aims at filling this gap between the knowledge of a person and the input accepted by computers. This way, printed documents containing math expressions could be automatically digitized, and handwriting could be used for direct input of math notation into electronic devices. This thesis is devoted to develop an approach for mathematical expression recognition. In this document we propose an approach for recognizing any type of mathematical expression (printed or handwritten) based on probabilistic grammars. In order to do so, we develop the formal statistical framework such that derives several probability distributions. Along the document, we deal with the definition and estimation of all these probabilistic sources of information. Finally, we define the parsing algorithm that globally computes the most probable mathematical expression for a given input according to the statistical framework. An important point in this study is to provide objective performance evaluation and report results using public data and standard metrics. We inspected the problems of automatic evaluation in this field and looked for the best solutions. We also report several experiments using public databases and we participated in several international competitions. Furthermore, we have released most of the software developed in this thesis as open source. We also explore some of the applications of mathematical expression recognition. In addition to the direct applications of transcription and digitization, we report two important proposals. First, we developed μCAPTCHA, a method to tell humans and computers apart by means of math handwriting input, which represents a novel application of math expression recognition. Second, we tackled the problem of layout analysis of structured documents using the statistical framework developed in this thesis, because both are two-dimensional problems that can be modeled with probabilistic grammars. The approach developed in this thesis for mathematical expression recognition has obtained good results at different levels. It has produced several scientific publications in international conferences and journals, and has been awarded in international competitions.