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Algorithm Plots Best Path For Finding Waldo

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Candlewick Press via collider

If you consider Where's Waldo more of a challenge than an activity, a new algorithm has created a solution that will help you cut out all that pesky searching.

Stranded at home after one of the many recent snowstorms, Randy Olson—a doctoral student at Michigan State University’s High-Performance Computing Center—wondered if he could best Slate’s supposed “foolproof strategy for finding the missing man,” which found that there's a 53 percent chance that the cartoon man is located in one of two 1.5 inch horizontal bands that stretch across each spread. While true, this is not the most useful hack for sussing out any one particular Waldo.

First, Olson mapped out all of Wally’s positions across all 68 of Martin Handford’s books published since 1987. Through a statistical process that measures probability, he learned that there are some places Waldo almost never appears: The top left or bottom right corners. Next, he applied a genetic algorithm that recreates the process of natural selection by testing all possible patterns to find the best one through trial and error.

“Genetic algorithms continually tinker with the solution—always trying something slightly different from the current best solution and keeping the better one—until they can’t find a better solution any more,” Olson explained on his blog.

That looked a little like this:

And what he and the algorithm came up with is a search path that optimizes your chances of quickly tracking down Waldo.

“This path represents one of the shortest possible paths to follow on the page to find Waldo,” Olsen writes, so if we followed this path exactly, we’d most likely find Waldo much faster than someone following a more basic technique.”

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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest
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Learn All About Fonts by Playing With These Poker Cards
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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

Want to learn about fonts? Try playing poker with the Font Deck, a pack of cards designed to help users learn the finer points of typography and font design.

The deck is the work of Canadian designer Ben Barrett-Forrest, who runs a graphic design studio based out of Ontario and the Yukon. In 2014, Barrett-Forrest designed the precursor to the Font Deck, a product called the Design Deck that aimed to teach users about the ins and outs of graphic design. Some of the Design Deck cards feature typography lessons, but the Font Deck—available for $17 a deck on Barrett-Forrest’s website or on Kickstarter—gives the topic a deeper dive.

A male hand holds fanned-out cards next to a Font Deck box and a stack of playing cards.
Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

The deck includes topics like letter anatomy, old style typefaces, the difference between a font and a typeface, and profiles of specific typefaces, like Helvetica. The cards themselves are printed by the same company that makes popular playing cards like Bicycle and Bee, so they’re gambling ready, if you feel like betting your fortune on that slab serif card.

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Dungeons & Dragons Gets a Digital Makeover
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Since the 1970s, players have been constructing elaborate campaigns in Dungeons & Dragons using nothing but paper, pencils, rule books, and 20-sided dice. That simple formula has made D&D the quintessential role-playing game, but the game's publisher thinks it can be improved with a few 21st-century updates. As The Verge reports, Wizards of the Coast is launching a digital toolset meant to enhance the gaming experience.

The tool, called D&D Beyond, isn’t meant to be a replacement for face-to-face gameplay. Rather, it’s designed to save players time and energy that could be better spent developing characters or battling orcs. The resource includes a fifth-edition rule book users can search by keyword. At the start of a new campaign, they can build monsters and characters within the program. And players don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring their notes to a quest—D&D Beyond keeps track of information like items and spells in one convenient location.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, said in a statement when the concept was first announced. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D.”

This isn’t the first attempt to bring D&D into the digital age; videogames inspired by the fictional world have been produced since the 1980s. Unlike those titles, though, D&D Beyond will still highlight the imagination-fueled role-playing aspect of the game when it launches August 15.

[h/t The Verge]

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