DARPA's Shredder Challenge is solved ahead of schedule
By Ben Coxworth
December 5, 2011
At the end of October, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) launched its Shredder Challenge contest. The objective: create a system for reconstructing shredded papers, then demonstrate it by piecing together five documents, the shredded remains of which were posted on the contest's website. Although the contest had a December 4th deadline, the "All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S." team correctly reassembled all five documents with two days to spare.
The San Francisco-based team, which beat out approximately 9,000 competitors, used "custom-coded, computer-vision algorithms to suggest fragment pairings to human assemblers for verification." Members of the team spent approximately 600 man-hours developing algorithms and otherwise working on the challenge, completing everything within 33 days. Because it was able to reconstruct all five documents posted in the contest, the team was able to claim the complete prize of US$50,000.
DARPA hosted the contest both to develop methods of reading shredded documents left behind by enemies in war zones, and to identify ways in which U.S. shredded documents could be read by other parties, so that countermeasures could be developed.