UPDATE: Dec. 2, 2011 — The DARPA Shredder Challenge has been solved. In the post below, we announced the challenge. But today, DARPA has announced the winner, a small San Francisco-based team that called themselves ‘All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S.' They used custom-coded, computer-vision algorithms and spent nearly 600 man-hours piecing together the shreds. To view the team and their solution, click here. Congrats!
Nov. 2, 2011 — Good news if you like solving puzzles for money; bad news for any perps out there looking to rid themselves of incriminating documents. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is holding a contest to develop strategies for reconstructing shredded documents, and they're offering up to $50,000 for the winner.
Interested? Then register at the Shredder Challenge website and download five different puzzles made from images of shredded documents. It's your job to to reassemble the shreds and reveal a message written on the original piece of paper. To keep you on your toes, DARPA has thrown in a few errant shreds not from the original document. Also, a few shreds are missing from the original.
To make the contest more of a challenge, each document has been shredded in a different way. Some documents include more pages than others and the shreds have all been mixed together. So if you're thinking this will be just like putting together a scenic jigsaw puzzle at grandma's house, then think again.
To prove they've solved each puzzle, contestants will be required to solve yet another puzzle — the one posed on each document when assembled. Photo documentation of each completed document is also required.
However, contestants are not required to solve all five puzzles. Though keep in mind whoever solves the most puzzles by the December 4 deadline takes home the prize. Each puzzle is assigned a number of points which will determine how much money is awarded.
DARPA is seeking new methods for reassembling shredded documents that could be of use for gathering intelligence. As well, the agency also wants to identify methods that could be used against the United States, so naturally, they're going to want you to explain yourself.
People from any country can enter, but only U.S. citizens will be able to receive the prize money. That's a little puzzling.