Reassembling a puzzle with 600 million pieces

From Reassembling a puzzle with 600 million pieces.

Nineteen years ago, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and democracy swept through communist East Germany, STASI agents – members of the secret police – worked feverishly to destroy millions of top-secret documents in an effort to keep them from Western eyes. (…)

Then, in May 2007, the German government revealed the world’s most sophisticated pattern-recognition machine, the $8.5 million dollar (U.S.) E-Puzzler, which can digitally put back together even the most finely shredded papers.

Developed in Berlin by the Fraunhofer Institute of Production Facilities and Construction Technology, the E-puzzler is a computerized conveyor belt that runs shards of shredded and torn paper through a digital scanner.

Scanning up to 10,000 shreds at once, the machine links them together by their colour, typeface, outline, shape and texture – not unlike how the average human might try to piece together a puzzle. The machine then displays a digital image of the original document on a computer screen. (…)

In addition to piecing together shreds of paper, the machine has been used by Chinese archaeologists to reconstruct smashed Terracotta warriors found in the tomb of Emperor Qin. And the equipment has deciphered barely-legible lists of Nazi concentration camp victims. [continue]

2 thoughts on “Reassembling a puzzle with 600 million pieces

  1. Oh, dear, does that mean that all my shredded checks and bank statements will be an open book to anyone who can afford the $8.5 million machine to scan and assemble the pieces? Drat! I thought $20 for a shredder was too easy.

    Next you’re going to tell me to burn the documents and eat the ashes. Then some genius will discover a body scan to retrieve the information before….Never mind.

  2. Precisely what I’m fearing, Sarah! Thankfully ID thieves have not unionize and bought this yet. But it’s just a matter of time…..

    Interesting application. I wonder how much the dead past ought to stay dead. Knowledge is power. It certainly has the ability to rock more than a few worlds.

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