For those of us non-IT types, using a computer to find Waldo of the famed “Where’s Waldo” books seems like no big deal. After all, our smart phones do marvelous, gee-whiz things every time we take them out of our (dumb users’) pockets. But, apparently, like many of the cool uses of big data, what looks smooth and simple on the surface is not quite so easy-peasy after all.
A user, who goes by the moniker of Heike, answered a challenge posted on the programming Q & A site, stackoverflow.com (read uber-smart geek hangout) to use Mathematica image analysis software to find the beloved red and white striped shirt-wearing Waldo. Boy, did that start a conversation!
Apparently, this was not an easy, one size fits all, easily replicable solution and so, the other users were not quite convinced that this was actually a winning answer. Technical questions aside, one user, Stefan Kendall, simply had this to say, “You seem to have misunderstood the rules of Where’s Waldo. This is clearly cheating.” (Which is EXACTLY how we feel about the find best answer button on IPad Scrabble – we’re talking about you, little sister), but in any case, as cool as this solution was, it doesn’t look like any of us will be finding Waldo using code rather than our eyes for now, at least until all the programmers work together to build a solution that’s easier to use. It is, however, a thought provoking example of how easy it’s getting to do amazing things with algorithms these days. Run Waldo run! You won’t be able to hide forever.