E-Puzzler – Reverse Shredding

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Not to sound snooty, but I caught a brief report on NPR this morning on some technology currently being used to piece together documents that were ripped up by the former East German secret police- the Stasi. Developed with help from the Fraunhofer Society, German research organization, the technology is known as the e-Puzzler. According to the NPR report, “The E-puzzler is basically a shredding machine in reverse. You scan torn-up documents into it. It matches up the pieces using color, paper texture, fonts, tear lines and other details.”

A conveyer-belt is apparently used in the scanning device, which I can only imagine looks like the open track devices developed by IBML and BancTec. According to an article that appeared in The Guardian a few years back, “The machine works by scanning the document fragments into a computer image file. It treats each scrap as if it is part of a huge jigsaw puzzle. The shape, colour, font, texture and thickness of the paper is then analysed so that eventually it is possible to rebuild an electronic image of the original document.”

More from the NPR article: “For the past few years, the E-puzzler has been used under a pilot program funded by the German government. But it has processed only a few hundred sacks. There are more than 15,000 to go. Joachim Haeussler, the archivist in charge of digital reconstruction, now wants to greatly step up the use of E-puzzler technology. “It will help us enormously,” he said. “We couldn’t even employ the amount of people that would be needed to put together the tiny, tiny pieces of files, because some files are only half a fingernail’s worth in size.” Ahh, the beauty of document capture.

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