Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

33 Days Later, the DARPA Shredder Challenge is Solved

December 9th, 2011 / in Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

DARPA Shredder Challenge solved [image courtesy DARPA].Last Friday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the end of its Shredder Challenge — a competition for computer scientists and puzzle enthusiasts alike to piece together a series of shredded documents — when a small team of just three San Francisco-based computer programmers correctly reconstructed each of the five challenge documents and solved their associated puzzles 33 days after the Challenge began.

“All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S.,” they called themselves — and they took home the $50,000 prize for using

custom-coded, computer vision algorithms to suggest fragment pairings to human assemblers for verification. In total, the winning team spent nearly 600 man-hours developing algorithms and piecing together documents that were shredded into more than 10,000 pieces.

According to DARPA’s press release (after the jump):

“Lots of experts were skeptical that a solution could be produced at all let alone within the short time frame,” said Dan Kaufman, director [of] DARPA’s Information Innovation Office (I2O). “The most effective approaches were not purely computational or crowd-sourced, but used a combination blended with some clever detective work. We are impressed by the ingenuity this type of competition elicits.”


The Shredder Challenge represents a preliminary investigation into the area of information security to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by war fighters operating in war zones to more quickly obtain valuable information from confiscated, shredded documents and gain a quantitative understanding of potential vulnerabilities inherent to the shredding of sensitive U.S. National security documents.


DARPA Director Regina E. Dugan emphasized, “The DARPA Shredder Challenge underscores the value of increasing the number and diversity of problem solvers. The varied methods used have potential implications for so-called ‘wicked problems,’ generally considered insolvable by conventional means, and offer the possibility of increased speed, agility and breadth in innovation.”

Check out the DARPA Shredder Challenge website for more details, including the winning team’s submissions, the puzzle solutions, and the overall Challenge theme.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

33 Days Later, the DARPA Shredder Challenge is Solved