Fans of the illustrated children’s series ‘Where’s Wally?’ would no doubt be familiar with the deep feeling of frustration and intense focus associated with finding the aforementioned Wally. It’s a difficult task that can prove elusive, but a US IT student plans to change everything you know about the red-and-white striped adventurer!
Doctoral student Randy Olson released a statement concerning his important work within the Michigan State University’s High-Performance Computing Centre. After being trapped at home by a snow-storm, the IT student decided to develop a special Wally-seeking algorithm. Mr. Olsen’s aim is to find Wally in the most efficient and speedy way possible.
“I was going to pull out every machine learning trick in my tool box to compute the optimal search strategy for finding Waldo. I was going to crush Slate’s supposed foolproof strategy and carve a trail of defeated Waldo-searchers in my wake,” Mr. Olson wrote on his blog.
In the end, the programmer decided to opt for a genetic algorithm, a search process which utilises artificial intelligence in order to facilitate ‘machine learning’. By inputting data into the algorithm, Mr. Olson believes a machine will soon be able to detect Wally entirely on its own!
“Genetic algorithms continually tinker with the solution — always trying something slightly different from the current best solution and keeping the better one — until they can’t find a better solution any more,” Mr. Olson said.
Mr. Olson claims that the algorithm began predicting likely paths in an intelligent and rational way, deducting that Wally was never in the top left of the gate-fold (because of the postcard) and never in the bottom of the right page (as the eye is naturally drawn to that region).
In the end, Mr. Olson asserts that the algorithm is surely the quickest way to find Wally. “This path represents one of the shortest possible paths to follow on the page to find Waldo, so if we followed this path exactly, we’d most likely find Waldo much faster than someone following a more basic technique.”
But the “basic technique” is likely much more enjoyable, Mr. Olson! After all, there is an undeniable human dimension to the question which has long plagued mankind: “Where’s Wally?”
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