Optical mark reader bubbles as used on a multiple choice exam answer sheetOMR is the acronym used for Optical Mark Recognition or Optical Mark Reader. OMR scanners are used to scan forms to detect the presence or absence of a mark in a predetermined position. Using an OMR scanner helps with automated data capture, as opposed to time consuming manual data entry.

Two early forms of OMR are paper tape and punch cards which use actual holes punched into the medium. Paper tape was used as early as 1857 as an input device for the telegraph and punch cards were created in 1890 and used as input devices for computers. The use of punch cards declined greatly in the early 1970’s with the introduction of personal computers.

The use of OMR is not only limited to schools or data collection agencies; many businesses and health care agencies use optical mark readers to streamline their data input processes and reduce input error. A large number of OMR Scanners used today are manufactured by Scantron, who are based in Eagan, Minnesota. MurrayData is an authorised UK distributor for these machines. Other OMR scanner manufacturers are Sekonic, Apperson, Nanhao, DRS and Datawin.

There are many applications for Optical Mark Recognition including: institutional research, community surveys, consumer surveys, tests & assessments, evaluations/feedback, data compilation, product evaluation, time sheets, inventory counts, membership subscription forms, and lotteries & voting

There are some disadvantages to Optical Mark Reading. If the user wants to gather large amounts of text then OCR or ICR is probably the best technology to use. For the most part however OMR provides a fast and accurate way to collect and input data. To see the OMR scanners that MurrayData supply, click here.