|Latest advances in digitization techniques have fostered the interest in creating digital copies of collections of documents. Digitized documents permit an easy maintenance, loss-less storage, and efficient ways for transmission and to perform information retrieval processes. This situation has opened a new market niche to develop systems able to automatically extract and analyze information contained in these collections, specially in the ambit of the business activity.
Due to the great variety of types of documents this is not a trivial task. For instance, the automatic extraction of numerical data from invoices differs substantially from a task of text recognition in historical documents. However, in order to extract the information of interest, is always necessary to identify the area of the document where it is located. In the area of Document Analysis we refer to this process as layout analysis, which aims at identifying and categorizing the different entities that compose the document, such as text regions, pictures, text lines, or tables, among others. To perform this task it is usually necessary to incorporate a prior knowledge about the task into the analysis process, which can be modeled by defining a set of contextual relations between the different entities of the document. The use of context has proven to be useful to reinforce the recognition process and improve the results on many computer vision tasks. It presents two fundamental questions: What kind of contextual information is appropriate for a given task, and how to incorporate this information into the models.
In this thesis we study several ways to incorporate contextual information to the task of document layout analysis, and to the particular case of handwritten text line segmentation. We focus on the study of Probabilistic Graphical Models and other mechanisms for this purpose, and propose several solutions to these problems. First, we present a method for layout analysis based on Conditional Random Fields. With this model we encode local contextual relations between variables, such as pair-wise constraints. Besides, we encode a set of structural relations between different classes of regions at feature level. Second, we present a method based on 2D-Probabilistic Context-free Grammars to encode structural and hierarchical relations. We perform a comparative study between Probabilistic Graphical Models and this syntactic approach. Third, we propose a method for structured documents based on Bayesian Networks to represent the document structure, and an algorithm based in the Expectation-Maximization to find the best configuration of the page. We perform a thorough evaluation of the proposed methods on two particular collections of documents: a historical collection composed of ancient structured documents, and a collection of contemporary documents. In addition, we present a general method for the task of handwritten text line segmentation. We define a probabilistic framework where we combine the EM algorithm with variational approaches for computing inference and parameter learning on a Markov Random Field. We evaluate our method on several collections of documents, including a general dataset of annotated administrative documents. Results demonstrate the applicability of our method to real problems, and the contribution of the use of contextual information to this kind of problems.