You see it all the time in the movies: someone finds a pile of shredded documents proving just how evil the evil bad guys is, takes a picture, and sends it to their lame computer geek sidekick. Much clicking of mice and typing on keyboards ensues, and lo, the documents are magically reconstructed. DARPA thinks this is cool and wants to make it happen for real.
I'll confess to being vaguely surprised that DARPA (or the people who DARPA gives all its best toys to) don't already have this kind of thing. Or rather, they probably have it, but apparently it sucks enough that DARPA is willing to throw down some couch-cushion change to make it better.
The "Shredder Challenge" has two goals: the primary goal is to come up with a faster and better way of taking pictures of shredded documents and reconstructing them. There are five of these documents, each with different subject matter and shredded in different ways, and to win the $50,000 that DARPA put on the table, you'll have to find the most efficient way of extracting information from the scraps. The secondary goal is to figure out what kind of paper shredding is the most annoying to reconstruct, so that the U.S. national security community can start using it exclusively.
This challenge is open to anyone who thinks they have a knack for puzzle-solving; the images of the shredded docs are available online right now, and you've got until December 4 to work your magic.