Optical mark recognition (OMR) systems are used to capture information by digitally scanning documents filled out by hand. Early examples of OMR technology include paper tape used with telegraphs and punch cards. OMR has evolved into specialized image scanners coupled with software programs that recognize penciled-in bubbles or other marks on standardized forms. OMR is used to process documents such as tests, surveys and checklists and provides several advantages over manual data collection.
The most obvious advantage of using optical mark recognition technology to collect data from documents is speed. Without OMR, each document must be visually read by a human being, who transfers that data into a computer system by hand. Although trained individuals can become efficient at analyzing and entering data from forms, there is a physical upper limit to how quickly a human being can perform the task. With OMR, documents are scanned and inputted at several times the speed achievable by a human being.
Along with the upper limit of how quickly a human being can physically read and transfer data from standardized forms is how accurately he can do so. Anyone who has had to look at a document and then look at a computer screen, then back to the document knows how easy it is to lose their place, particularly with a form where each line is similar. It is easy to transpose, duplicate data, become off-set by one line or simply mis-enter data, particularly as a worker fatigues. OMR increases data collection accuracy by eliminating these mistakes.
Optical mark recognition technology significantly reduces the number of people needed to process standardized forms by automating the most labor-intensive function, which is inputting the data. Documents can be loaded en masse into image scanners, which separate and digitize them one by one. OMR technology significantly reduces the overall cost of processing standardized documents by shrinking the number of people and amount of time it takes to input forms.