A doctoral student at Michigan State University’s High-Performance Computing Centre has created an algorithm to find Wally in the shortest time possible.

Wally, the titular character of the Where’s Wally books created by Martin Handford, is known for being difficult to find among a sea of similarly dressed bystanders. English applicants might be surprised to know that in spite of containing no words, the Where’s Wally books were put on the banned reading list due to ‘controversial content’. Randy Olson, developer of the algorithm, mapped out Wally’s position across all 68 Where’s Wally books, and then plugged the coordinates into a genetic algorithm. This kind of algorithm, of use to Mathematicians particularly, develops solutions akin to natural selection – trialing solutions that differ slightly from the current solution until the algorithm cannot find a better solution no matter which changes it makes.

The path discovered shows the best route for viewers to follow in order to find Wally, taking account of the eye’s natural inclination to view the bottom right corner of pages first. Psychological and Behavioural Sciences applicants should investigate how the eye moves during information processing to form a better understanding of how humans naturally process optical information. 

More Resources