‘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.

Emerging Tech

‘Rogue medicine in a bathtub’: 4 experts on the vice and virtue of pharma hacking

A biohacker, pharmahacker, and two bioethicists walk into a bar. We ordered them a metaphorical round and had a chat about the risks and rewards of DIY medicine — from unsanctioned gene therapy to medication made on the kitchen counter.
Movies & TV

‘American History X’ director wants a robot to star in his next film

American History X director Tony Kaye has announced plans to use a robot actor to play a lead role in 2nd Born, his next film. Instead of using computer-generated effects, the android will be trained in acting techniques for the movie.
Movies & TV

Study up for season 8 with the best 'Game of Thrones' theories

Season 8 of Game of Thrones is still on the horizon, meaning there's still time to brush up on the best 'Game of Thrones' theories. Whether you're one of the last adherents of the Cleganebowl, or a King Aerys truther, here are our top…
Movies & TV

Sony's upcoming 'Venom' movie might not be R-rated after all

Tom Hardy will play the lead role in Sony Pictures' Venom, so here's everything we know about the solo feature for the popular Spider-Man spinoff character ahead of the film's 2018 premiere in theaters.
Emerging Tech

Cotton and corn! Reebok’s newest sneaker is ‘made from things that grow’

Keen to move away from using oil-based materials to make its footwear, Reebok has turned to cotton and corn for its latest sneaker. No dyes have been used to color the shoes, either, and the packaging is 100 percent recyclable.
Computing

Apple AR glasses will launch in 2020, says respected industry analyst

Apple AR glasses may be closer to reality than we thought. Here is everything we know so far about the augmented reality system, including the rumored specifications of Apple's Project Mirrorshades.
Emerging Tech

A new way to ‘freeze’ water could help transform organ preservation

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a way of keeping water as a liquid at temperatures far below freezing. Here's why that could help transform organ preservation.
Emerging Tech

Meet the Mantis Q: A drone you can control by yelling, waving, or even smiling

"Mantis, take a picture." Yuneec's new consumer drone, the Yuneec Mantis Q, responds to voice commands along with gestures and smiles. The 4K drone also integrates several different flight modes and safety features inside a one-pound…
Emerging Tech

This robot arm could soon recharge your electric car, no driver effort required

Researchers in Austria have developed a smart robotic charger that can automatically plug itself into any electric vehicle, no driver effort required whatsoever. What could be simpler?
Emerging Tech

Police body cams are scarily easy to hack into and manipulate, researcher finds

Nuix cybersecurity expert Josh Mitchell has demonstrated how it is possible to hack into and potentially manipulate footage from police body cams. The really scary part? It's shockingly easy.
Emerging Tech

Scientists try to trick brains of amputees with phantom limb syndrome

New research might help some amputees better mesh what they see with what they feel. In a recently published paper, researchers show how an amputee’s brain can be tricked into believing a prosthetic hand belongs to their own body.
Emerging Tech

Los Angeles subway to become first in the U.S. to use body scanners

Los Angeles is set to become the first city in the U.S. to use body scanners on its subway. The machines are portable and quick to set up, and can check around 2,000 people an hour without causing lines or delays for passengers.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Gaming

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.