If you like puzzles and think you could make shredded or severely damaged documents whole again in a particularly cool way, then the scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have a challenge for you.
The agency today announced at $50,000 Shredder Challenge it hopes will bring computer scientists, puzzle enthusiasts and anyone else who likes solving complex problems to piece together a series of shredded documents in a unique way.
Specifically, DARPA said it hopes to gain new insight into which of these or other innovative techniques are quicker and more efficient, and, whether the wide availability of high resolution photography, communication and crowd-sourcing strategies offer unexpected advances.
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From DARPA: The Challenge consists of five individual puzzles, downloadable here, each composed of one or more single-sided, hand-written documents. DARPA said the puzzles are in a ZIP format that includes the associated TIF image(s) and a TXT file. The TXT file contains amplifying instructions as well as the associated puzzle-specific question(s) that must be answered in order to score points. The TXT file also includes a set of additional questions that DARPA requests participants answer in order to conduct analysis of the various reconstruction methods used by the participants.
The pages for each puzzle have been shredded separately; however, the shredded pages for each individual puzzle have been mixed together. All documents were shredded on newly purchased, commercial grade shredders. Some shredded puzzle pieces may have some slightly blurred writing due to the transfer of oil from the shredding blades.
Additionally, each puzzle may contain a small number of additional pieces or a few missing pieces, precluding a 100% reconstructed document. After shredding, puzzle pieces have been collected, arrayed top-side-up, and scanned at 400 dots-per-inch using one or more TIF 6.0 images (lossless compression). To score points, participants must download the images of the shredded documents from the Challenge website, reconstruct the documents, solve the puzzles, and submit the correct answers to the Challenge website before the December 4, 2011deadline.
Shredder prize results will be posted on the Challenge website during the week of December 5, 2011. In the event a participant correctly solves all the puzzles prior to the deadline, the Challenge will be terminated and DARPA will announce the winner immediately. Participants are encouraged to build teams using the event forum and to monitor www.twitter.com/darpa_news for the latest news updates.
Currently, a variety of techniques exist for reconstructing shredded documents including manual assembly, fully automated algorithms and hybrid operator-assisted approaches, DARPA said.
"The ability to reconstruct shredded documents will potentially yield information that may save lives or offer critical information about an adversary's plans," said Mr. Dan Kaufman, Director of DARPA's Information Innovation Office. "Currently, this process is much too slow and too labor-intensive, particularly if the documents are handwritten. We are looking to the Shredder Challenge to generate some leap-ahead thinking in this area."
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