It's only been about a month since DARPA challenged geeks everywhere to come up with a way to reassemble shredded documents, but we have a winner: a team based in San Francisco named "All Your Shreds Are Belong To U.S."
The winning team used a combination of computer vision algorithms and eyeball grease to reconstruct the 10,000 individual pieces of shredded paper, but it wasn't easy: over 600 man-hours were spent on software development and old-fashioned looking at stuff. The system that the team came up with used computers to determine which pairs of different paper bits might fit together, along with a human in the loop for confirmation. Ultimately, they were able to to successfully reconstruct each of the five shredded documents and solve the puzzles therein.
These CATS are going home with a $50,000 prize, which is basically nothing considering what DARPA gets out of the deal: a new de-shredding system. I guess the next challenge will have to be more difficult: maybe, reconstructing documents from the ashes of burned paper, which is what everyone with a shredder is going to have to resort to now.
Oh, and one more question: d'you suppose the dudes at DARPA ever actually played Zero Wing?