Optical processing over the past 10 years has made significant advances in implementing a great number of digital pattern recognition algorithms. Especially important are optical implementations of digital algorithms that involve global operations on 2-D patterns. Such applications of optical processing will significantly speed up the response time of the pattern recognition systems while maintaining the reliability offered by digital methods. This paper summarily describes some of these advances, for example, in preprocessing, feature extraction, and statistical pattern recognition. It is proposed that a microcomputer-based hybrid system be developed in which digital implementations of algorithms involving neighborhood operations can be combined with optical implementations of algorithms involving global operations on 2-D patterns.