Waldo (or, in other parts of the world, Wally) is a tough guy to find. Even with those glasses and that stupid hat, he's always lurking, hiding, just out of sight. Or, he was, until science kicked his door down and found a way to find him real quick and easy.


Michigan State computer science grad student Randal S. Olson has developed an "optimal search strategy" for each of the main seven books in the Where's Waldo series. Having plotted where he actually turns up in each of the 68 images across the books — and found that Waldo rarely appears around the edges or top left corner — he made a "kernal density estimate" that's basically a heat map for how often Waldo appears in certain spots.

After that, he developed an algorithm that plotted out the best way to start at one side of the page, work your way across to the other and in a single line always find Waldo.

So how does it work? Olson tested it out across the series and found that, aside from a few exceptions in the very first book, he could clear most pages in under ten seconds, and some a lot faster than that.


The optimal path is below. If you've got a copy of a book lying around, try it out!

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