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Develop and Evaluate a Word Search Puzzle Solver

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Added on: 2022-12-06 04:47:35
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You are asked to build and evaluate a system that can solve Word Search puzzles. The input to the system will be, i) a set of images of Word Search puzzles photographed 

from a puzzle book and stored in  image format, ii) the list of words that are to be 

found in each puzzle. The output will be a sequence of word positions indicating the grid coordinates of the first and last letter of each of the words that are to be found. Solving the problem will require two stages: building a letter classifier; implementing a word finding algorithm.  Your classifier must operate with feature vectors that have no more than 20 dimensions. You are given labelled data sets for training and evaluation, and some template code to help you get started.

  1. Background

A Word Search is a puzzle game that first appeared in the 1960’s (see Wikipedia) and which is now commonly found in newspapers and puzzle books. The puzzle consists of a grid of letters and a list of words that are hidden in the grid. Words appear in the grid as straight, connected sequences of letters which can run in any direction, i.e., including diagonally and backwards. The aim is for the solver to locate each of the words.

In the lab classes, you have been experimenting with techniques for classification and dimensionality reduction. In this assignment, you will use the experience you have gained to build a system for solving Word Search puzzles, i.e., taking images of word search puzzles and outputting the positions of the hidden words. This involves taking the image of the full puzzle, cutting it into separate squares (i.e., one square for each letter) and then classifying the letter images, i.e., as one of the 26 possible A to Z 

letters,    ’. Finally, you will need an algorithm to search through the grid of 

labels to find where the words are hidden. In Word Search puzzles, the words can run left, right, up, down, or in any diagonal direction. Words can also overlap.

The images you will be processing have come from a normal puzzle book, the ‘Tesco Handy Mixed Puzzle’ book and have been photograph using an iPhone. To make the task more interesting, photographs of varying quality have been captured: high- quality in which the letter are clearly readable (see Figure 1); and low-quality where the blurring of the image makes many letters quite ambiguous (see Figure 2).

You are provided with a correctly-labeled set of training data and if you use appro- priate techniques you should be able to produce a solution that will work perfectly on the high-quality data, and surprisingly well on the low-quality data. You will be assessed partly on the performance of your solution.

1.   What you are given

You have been given,

  1. data for training and testing your systems, and
  2. some template code to get you

The template code will run but it will produce poor results. The dimensionality reduc- tion, classification and word searching stages have been given stub implementations:

they return the correct type of value but do nothing useful. You will need to replace these implementations using ideas that you have learnt during the course.

3.1.    The data

There are two types of data.

  1. Image files. These are images of complete puzzles. The images have all be pre-processed so that are all upright and scaled such that each letter in the image occupies a 30 by 30 pixel square.
  1. Label files. There are two label files: train.json which provides labels for the training data, and puzzles.dev.json which provides labels for the development test data. They are stored in JSON format and contain a list of dictionaries. Each dictionary represents one puzzles and has the structure shown below,


"name": "WS22",

"rows": 20,

"columns": 15,

"words": ["bagel", "baguette", ..., "yeast"],

"positions": [[11, 2, 15, 6], [1, 1, 8, 8], ..., [0, 0, 0, 4]],

"letters": [





In the dictionary, the fields have the following meaning:

  • name : a string containing the name of the puzzle - used to identify the image file
  • rows : an integer specifying the number of rows in the
  •  an integer specifying the number of columns in the
  •  a list of strings containing the words to be found in the
  • positions : a list of 4 digit lists indicating the correct position of each The first two digits are the row and column of the first letter, and the last two digits are the row and column of the last letter.
  • : a list of strings containing the letters in the The first string is the first row of letters, the second string is the second row of letters, etc.

3.2.    The code

The code is organised into four Python files: train.py , evaluate.py , utils.py and system.py . train.py and evaluate.py will train and test the system, respectively. They will do this by calling functions in system.py . Your task is to rewrite the code in system.py to produce a working system. No other Python file should be changed.

In brief, the code files have the following function. 

  • py - this runs the training stage. It will train two models: one using the high quality images and one using the low quality images. For each model, train.py will read the corresponding training data, process it, and store results. Results are saved in a pair of files called model.high.json.gz and model.low.json.gz stored in the directory, data/ , for the high and low quality data respectively. The training code uses functions in system.py that you will need to modify and extend. Do not change the code in the train.py file itself.
  • py - this runs the evaluation stage. It will run two evaluations: one using the high quality data and one using the low quality data. For each dataset, evaluate.py first reads the corresponding model file, i.e., model.high.json.gz or model.low.json.gz . It will then perform the letter classification on the test images. It will then attempt to find the puzzles list of

words in the grid of classified letters. Finally, it will use the test image letter la- bels and known word locations to evaluate the solution, reporting scores for the percentage of letters correctly classified, and the percentage of words correctly located. Similarly to train.py ,it uses functions in system.py that you will need to modify and extend. Do not change the code in the evaluate.py file itself.

  • py - these are some utility functions that perform operations such as loading and segmenting the image files. Do not change the code in this file.
  • py - the code in this file is used by both train.py and evaluate.py

.   It implements the key system functionality, including the dimensionality

reduction, the classification, and the word searching steps that you will develop. The provided version contains dummy code that will run but which won’t produce good results.  The dummy dimensionality reduction just returns the first elements of the feature vector; The dummy classifier outputs the label ‘E’ for every square; the dummy word finder always says the word lies between square (0, 0) and (1, 1).

Your task is to write a new version of system.py . Your solution must not change train.py , evaluate.py or utils.py . Once finished, you will run   train.py to generate your own versions of  model.high.json.gz and  model.low.json.gz

. You will then submit the system.py along with the model.high.json.gz and model.low.json.gz files. The assignment assessors will then run the program evaluate.py using your copy of system.py and your model files. We will evaluate using a new test puzzle images that you have not seen during development. The performance on the unseen test puzzle will form part of the assessment of your work.

 2.   How to proceed

The plan below has been written to help you get started. Steps 1 and 2 should be completed first. Steps 3 to 6 are not necessarily sequential, and you are free to use any process you wish. However, it is recommended that you read through this section carefully before considering how best to proceed. 

Step 1: Read and understand the code provided

The code provided does all the file handling and some of the initial processing steps for you, e.g., segmenting the puzzle image into squares. Spend time to understand how it works before planning your solution. 

Step 2: Test the code provided

Check that you can run the code provided. You can download it to your machine and run it in your local environment, or you can run it directly on CoCalc. If using CoCalc, then open a terminal in CoCalc and then navigate to the directory containing the assignment code,

cd assignment/code Run the train step python3 train.py

Then run the evaluation step

python3 evaluate.py

The code should print out the percentage of correctly classified letters and the correctly located words for both the high quality and low quality image conditions. The dummy code will produce the same result for both conditions: 10.7% letters classified correctly and 0.0% words found correctly.

The evaluate.py function can also be asked to produce an image showing where the words are. To do this you need to add the argument --display to the command line. For example,

python3 evaluate.py --display

For a working solution, this will produce an output something like that shown in Figure 3 on the next page.


Step 3: Working on the training stage

The function  in system.py processes the training data and returns results in a dictionary called  . The program train.py calls process_training_data and saves the resulting 

model_data dictionary to the files model.high.json.gz and  model.low.json.gz .  These files are then used by the classifier when evaluate.py is called. So, any data that your classifier needs must go into this dictionary. For example, if you are using a nearest neighbour classifier then the dictionary must contain the feature vectors and labels for the complete training set. If you are using a parametric classifier then the dictionary must contain the classifier’s parameters. The function is currently written with a nearest neighbour classifier in mind. Read it carefully and understand how to adapt it for your chosen approach. 

Figure 3: Output produced by evaluate.py with the display flag set. 

Step 4: Implementing dimensionality reduction

You are free to use any dimensionality reduction technique. PCA should perform well but is not necessarily the best approach. Start by looking at the function in the existing system.py code provided. This function cur-

rently just returns the first 10 pixels of each image and will not work well. It will need

to be rewritten. 

Step 5: Implementing the classifier

You are free to use any classification technique. A nearest neighbor classifier should work well but is not necessarily the best approach. Start by looking at the functions in the system.py code provided. Note, it is passed the features

vectors for all the letter images that need to be classified, and the dictionary contain-

ing the parameters of the classifier that was trained when train.py was run. The function should return a list of labels, one for each input feature vector. The function currently just returns the label (‘E’) regardless of the input. It will need to rewritten.

 Step 6: Implementing the word search

The word search stage is implemented by the function                                                                                                                        in

system.py .  It takes a grid of letter labels stored as a 2D numpy array, and a list of word strings that need to be found. The function needs to take each word in the list of words and find its position in the grid of classified letters.  It needs to return a list of 4-digit tuples, i.e., one for each word with the format,You will need to make sure that the search checks all possible directions that the word could be in. The challenge with this stage is that the grid of classified letters may (and generally will) contain errors. If there are errors then you may not find an exact match for the word, but will need to consider how to make the best guess about where it belongs.This function can get quite complicated, so take care to implement and document it carefully, for example, by breaking it down into a number fo smaller functions as appropriate. ## 5. Additional rules

Some additional important rules must be obeyed. Read these carefully.

  • Your feature vectors must have no more the 20
  • The files high.json.gz and model.low.json.gz must each be no bigger than 3 MB each.
  • The py program should not take more than 120 seconds to produce a result when it runs on the CoCalc servers.
  • You may make use of any code from the lab classes, even code appearing in the solutions (but you may want to improve it!) If using code from the labs, you must acknowledge the source of any code you didn’t write
  • Python modules: You may only import   ,   scipy , or modules in the  Python standard library. 
  • 3rd party source code: With the exception of code from the labs, you should not be using source code from 3rd parties. If you do use code that is not your own you must provide clear attribution, e., place it in a separate function with a comment that provides the URL of the original code. Failure to do so may be considered a case of Unfair Means.


  • Uploaded By : Katthy Wills
  • Posted on : December 06th, 2022
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