Skip to content

New database helps AI recognize mathematical formulae

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making headlines recently. AI tools that can create text or images (e.g., ChatGTP or Dall-E) are on the rise. Felix Schmitt-Koopmann asked himself how AI could automatically detect mathematical formulae in a text and ultimately help visually impaired people. He created the new database “FormulaNet” to take a step closer on the road to accessible scientific PDFs.

In his Ph.D., Felix takes on a big problem: PDFs are often not accessible and even if the author of a PDF wants to remedy this, it is not an easy task. A person with visual impairment uses assistive technologies, e.g., screen readers (= a tool that converts content into audio or braille), to navigate and read PDFs. The navigation is only possible if the author of the document adds extra information, like tags about the logical structure of the text and alternative text for images. In their study, Alireza Darvishy et. al. find that scientific PDFs are rarely tagged because the process is complicated and time-consuming. Consequently, people with visual impairments in the STEM field often do not have access to their content, especially the mathematical formulae. Felix applies AI for document analysis to automate the tagging process of PDFs – making it easier for the authors to create accessible papers.

Author: Johanna Seiwald