‘There’s Waldo’ robot will find Waldo long before you can

wheres waldo ai thereswaldo cover
Matt Reed / Redpepper

Add another name to the list of games machines have dominated: Where’s Waldo.

Few things fill us with angst growing up quite as much as trying to find that candy cane man amid a scene of chaos. Most games get easier with practice, but lanky ol’ Wally just got harder to find with each turned page.

So you may watch a new robot called There’s Waldo with a mixture of respect and resentment as it locates our beanie-at-the-beach main character in under 4.5 seconds. It’s impressive, yes. But also a bit of a spoiler.

There’s Waldo is the brain child of Matt Reed, a creative technologist at the creative agency Redpepper. Reed and his colleagues built the bot out of a uArm Swift Pro that’s controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer. On the front of the arm sits a Vision Camera Kit, which snaps a photo of the puzzle and runs it through the computer vision program OpenCV to recognize faces in the crowd.

The secret sauce is in Google’s AutoML Vision, a user-friendly system that lets users train A.I. without prior knowledge about coding. Reed trained his algorithm on 62 distinct photos of Waldo he found online. That might not seem like a lot of data, given that A.I. are often trained on many times that, but it seems to work.

In a video posted online, There’s Waldo is shown solving Where’s Waldo scenes in just a few seconds. When tasked with finding Waldo, the robot snaps a photo, picks out the faces, and decides which ones are mostly like Waldo based on anything higher than 95 percent confidence. It then reaches out with a tiny silicone hand and selects the character for good measure.

There’s Waldo records times between 4 seconds and 30 seconds depending on the number of characters on the page.

Reed was apparently inspired to develop the system after seeing the Amazon Rekognition for celebrities.

“That got me wondering if detecting illustrated celebrities was even possible,” he told Digital Trends. “For some reason that thought combined with my childhood memories of looking for Waldo hours on end popped together and spawned this project.”

The whole thing took Reed about a week to program, which is about how long many of us usually spend trying to find Waldo in the first place.

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