On sites like CrossValidated (but I guess this applies also to the math sites etc.) we often have users who post math formulas as pictures, rather then using TeX formatting that is supported by the platform. Some of the users are unfamiliar with TeX, some just lazy, yet it would be nicer to have everything in TeX (it would be also helpful for the visually impaired users, as we have such users).

This could be easily solved: there is the Mathpix service (and an R package) that is able to transform pictures (including the handwritten formulas) to TeX markdown. I don't know if it scales, but it would be used only by some users, so scalability is probably not that big problem. It could be offered as a button "transform this to TeX" or something. The only problem to solve is discovering if the image contains math or not, but this is a far easier problem then the one that is already solved by Mathpix.

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    Even if this were to work perfectly, and require low dev time, and be used by the people that need it - no. If someone is too lazy to even write the text of their question, it is virtually guaranteed to be VLQ or off-topic. The posts that are helped by this are posts we don't generally want. – Nij Apr 20 '18 at 6:56
  • +1 for the suggestion Tim, but I have to say I think Nij is right. Perhaps instead you could give some publicity to mathpix where relevant. – John Duffield Apr 20 '18 at 7:21
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    @Nij it is not about writing the text, it is about learning the TeX formatting -- this is not something you learn in your primary school, in many disciplines they won't learn it to you on the university. Maybe let's make it an universal rule and have captchas on ALL the sites: write down the equation in TeX, if you cannot, you cannot post, this would make SE even more welcoming place for the new users! – Tim Apr 20 '18 at 7:27
  • There are many users who didn't know (La)TeX/MathJax even existed until joining Stack Exchange, myself among them, let alone how to use it. Since I first picked it up, I have seen dozens of posts where the user has written out equations using regular symbol and format, either explicitly saying they don't know how to TeX-ify it and asking for help, or replying to comments that clarify an ambiguous phrase e.g. "x+1 / x = 4". So it is clearly not about the technical ability to use TeX at all. @Tim – Nij Apr 20 '18 at 7:40
  • @Nij so you say that wasting our time for half day discussion on what someone means by his ambiguous symbols is actually better then one-click tool that will help him extract the equation to nicely-formatted output..? Do we really need to waste time on statistics site on teaching people TeX? This suggestion is just about making some things easier for some users, but maybe instead we should make it harder and just close and downvote such questions. – Tim Apr 20 '18 at 7:49
  • It is nowhere near as simple as "put this tool into the site so everybody can one-click their homework into a question for us to close". – Nij Apr 20 '18 at 8:16
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    @Nij I didn't say anywhere that this would transform homeworks to questions. It could transform images of math equations to TeX formatted output that can be included in the question. – Tim Apr 20 '18 at 8:18
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    Have you actually looked at any of the questions this would be used for? They are almost invariably a picture taken of someone's textbook or a screenshot from their assignment, stuck in the post with "this my problem dunno what to do help plz" and zero further effort. What you say is irrelevant - this is what it would be used for. – Nij Apr 20 '18 at 8:23
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    ...or their notes and paper-and-pencil attempted solution. – Tim Apr 20 '18 at 9:00
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    Those are pretty strong assertions, @Nij, do you have any evidence for them? I've edited a number of posts on Cross Validated over the years, including turning images of formulas into TeX. My impression is that a tiny minority are homework-type or very low quality questions that we will inevitably close no matter what. – gung Apr 20 '18 at 13:18
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    @Nij I agree with gung here. I come from chem, and no, the average question with math as pictures is not VLQ, and has a considerable chance of getting answered, even on a site with such a high closure rate. This feature would just reduce the wasted editor time. – M.A.R. Apr 20 '18 at 17:50

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