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8 Sounds That Are Trademarked

Most of us are aware that you can trademark a slogan, a logo, and a name, but did you know that it is also possible to trademark a sound? Of course, in order to get approval from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, said sound must “uniquely identify the commercial origin of the product or service.” It may sound fairly cut and dry, but keep in mind that the folks at Harley-Davidson were denied trademark status on their allegedly unique “Potato-Potato-Potato” sound. Here are some sounds that did pass muster and are officially trademarked:

1. The MGM Lion

So far there have been five different lions used for the MGM logo. The first one to roar (and the one who provided the trademarked sound) was named Jackie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mqVvEaQefk

2. The NBC Chimes

This was the first sound to be trademarked, back in 1950. For the musicians in the audience, those three notes that make up the chimes are G, E and C.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP6Z86iDFjU

3. The 20th Century Fox Fanfare

The music that plays behind the 20th Century Fox logo was composed by Alfred Newman, who served as the head of the studio’s music department for over 20 years. He also conducted the orchestra for most of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals and won nine Academy Awards over the course of his career.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qDdYlyLRoI

4. Harlem Globetrotter’s Theme (Sweet Georgia Brown)

The version that’s trademarked was recorded by Brother Bones and His Shadows. The ‘Trotters adopted it as their signature tune in 1952.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmXbTi5GjDE

5. Lucasfilms THX Deep Note

The synthesized crescendo was created by Dr. James A. Moorer and debuted in theaters in the 1983 trailer for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXlz8f436bg&feature=related

6. Intel Inside Bong

Composed by Walter Werzowa in his home studio, the five note logo is allegedly broadcast somewhere in the world every five minutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm2Hbjx_W3I

7. Federal Signal Q2B Siren

This siren was used on almost all emergency vehicles at one time, but now it is mostly employed by fire engines.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwosBhJ0eYo&feature=related

8. AAMCO

The trademarked logo consists of a voice saying “Double A” followed by two car horn honks then “M-C-O.” In case you’re wondering, the same folks that founded AAMCO also owned MAACO – both names are combinations of their initials.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tQRTSROymY

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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