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13 More Great Kickstarter Projects

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For the past two months, we've rounded up flossy projects on Kickstarter, the kind of projects our readers would love. Of the 30 projects we've posted so far, 21 have been successfully funded. This month, we have another 13 flossy projects to share with you, listed in order of how much time remains for each campaign. If any of them strike your fancy, just follow the widgets over to Kickstarter to place a pledge (which can be as low as just $1).

562: A Project Documenting Native America

The Goal: Fund a publication, exhibition, and lecture series documenting all 562 Tribes in the United States

Funds Needed: $30,000

Favorite Reward: For a $10+ pledge, receive a digital copy of the 562 book, optimized for iPads and other devices

Splurge Reward: 5 backers pledging $2500+ will get to join the project creator and photographer, Matika Wilbur, on the road. You'll be able to join her for two days as she travels Indian country in her RV, documenting the Tribes. (Travel expenses not included.) You'll also receive the hardcover book, an original signed 20"x40" print from the exhibition, recognition in the book, and an invitation for two to a private reception with the artist at the exhibition opening at the Tacoma Art Museum.
Lazerman: This Man, This Lazer! Trade Paperback

The Goal: Print the first four issues of the Lazerman comic together as a trade paperback

Funds Needed: $6,500

Favorite Reward: A $5 pledge will get you a PDF copy of the Lazerman: This Man, This Lazer book, which includes issues #1 through #4 and 15 pages of "behind the scenes" materials, pinups, and other extras.

Splurge Reward: "The Angel of Kickstarter" reward is for those who pledge $1000+ and includes all 4 versions of the published book, a digital copy, 3D lithographs by Chris Giarrusso and Billy Tucci, commission sketches by Chris Herbert and D.C. White, a cameo in an upcoming issue of Lazerman, an original page from the book, a Lazerman T-shirt, a copy of every comic HBComics has produced, and a special mention at the top of the "Thank You" page in the book. And a future issue of Lazerman will be dedicated to you (or someone of your choice).
Science Fiction Land: A Stranger Than Fiction Documentary

The Goal: Complete the documentary Science Fiction Land, which tells the true story of the CIA rescue mission that inspired the Ben Affleck movie Argo

Funds Needed: $50,000

Favorite Reward: For a $25 pledge, you'll receive a special digital download of the documentary as soon as it's available, as well as a Science Fiction Land "souvenir" package (postcard, stickers, buttons) and your name in the credits

Splurge Reward: 3 special backers who pledge $10,000+ will get to host pre-release screening parties of the documentary with the filmmakers in attendance. They'll also receive all the other rewards, which include limited edition 3D Jack Kirby artwork, tickets to the film premiere and pre-screening dinner, Jack Kirby-style portraits, T-shirts, DVD/Blu-ray copies of the movie, among others.
The Secret Around-the-World Adventures of Owney the Postal Dog

The Goal: Publish a historical fiction graphic novel for all ages about Owney, the postal dog, and the possible secret adventures he could have had while traveling the world

Funds Needed: $10,000

Favorite Reward: With a $25+ pledge, you'll receive an autographed softcover copy of the book, the e-book version, and a thank you postcard from Owney

Splurge Reward: One lucky backer with a $2,500+ pledge will get a trip for 2 to Washington, DC, to see Owney at the Postal Museum. Includes airfare, 2 nights accommodation, and admission to the Postal Museum, as well as an autographed limited edition Kickstarter-only hardcover copy of the book, the e-book version, an Owney dogtag, a set of Owney postcards, a T-shirt, and a thank you postcard from Owney.
Under-Appreciated Animals: Alphabet Matching Game & Flash Cards

The Goal: Create and produce a 26-piece set of flash cards and a 52-piece matching game featuring under-appreciated animals for each letter of the alphabet

Funds Desired: $350

Favorite Reward: Receive either the flash cards or the matching game for a pledge of $10+

Splurge Reward: 4 backers pledging $150+ will each receive 4 hand-cut 3" stickers featuring animals from the alphabet series, up to 6 of the letters of their choice as 5"x7" prints or up to 10 of the letters as 4"x6" prints, a set of the matching game, a set of the flash cards, and an original mini drawing of the animal of their choice
The Wardenclyffe Horror

The Goal: Publish a graphic novel of "Lovecraftian horror" set at the dawn of the 20th century, starring Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain

Funds Needed: $9,800

Favorite Reward: For pledges of $24+, you'll receive a perfect-bound copy of the 92-page book, as well as a digital copy, and you'll be credited in the book as a supporter

Splurge Reward: With a pledge of $1,000+, you'll receive an autographed copy of the graphic novel, a digital copy, 3 limited edition prints, credit in the book as a supporter, as well as signed copies of any future comic books, graphic novels, or other literary projects released by Caffeineforge

The Goal: Complete development of and release BRIGHTdriver, a hands-free app with interactive audio games to make daily commutes more fun

Funds Needed: $23,500

Favorite Reward: At the $10+ pledge level, receive premier early access to the finished app, the first two games for BRIGHTdriver, and all additional BRIGHTdriver games released within the first year

Splurge Reward: As an "Elite Angel" with a pledge of $5,000+, receive a pre-launch party private dinner for you and a guest with the "inner circle" of game designers, advisers, and developers, in addition to all the other rewards, which include a ticket to the launch party, recording your voice to be used in the BRIGHTdriver game Odyssey, choice of a trivia category for the game Volley, a T-shirt, the app and games themselves, and an iPhone mount, among others
Desktop Gremlins, Vol. 1: Papercraft Art Book

The Goal: Print Desktop Gremlins designs in 92-page high-quality books

Funds Needed: $18,000

Favorite Reward: Receive an autographed copy of the book for your shelf and a copy for cutting, as well as 3 collectible bookmarks and a surprise limited edition bonus Desktop Gremlins construction page, for a pledge of $50+

Splurge Reward: With a pledge of $1,000+, you'll receive a signed copy of the book plus a second copy for cutting, 3 collectible bookmarks, and the surprise limited edition bonus construction page, but you'll also receive a custom Desktop Gremlins-style papercraft as a downloadable PDF to use for promoting your business, as a gift, etc.
Jane Eyre: An Autobiography On Stage

The Goal: Stage a faithful adaptation of Jane Eyre at Vern Riffe Center's Studio One theater in downtown Columbus, then take it on tour in 2014.

Funds Needed: $9,999

Favorite Reward: For a $53 pledge, you'll receive 2 reserved seats for the show; 2 invitations for an exclusive post-show party with the cast, crew, and Board of Directors; an acknowledgement of sponsorship on the website, on the Facebook page, and in the program; access to exclusive online audio and video footage from rehearsals; and a supporter mini-button

Splurge Reward: Just one lucky backer willing to pledge $4,444+ will be an honored guest for life of Available Light Theatre (AVLT). You'll receive admission for you and a guest to every AVLT show, as many times as you'd like, for the rest of your life. You'll also receive all the other rewards, including a pre-show dinner with the director, invitations to the dress rehearsal and post-show party, sponsorship acknowledgement on all marketing materials, a show poster signed by the designer and cast and crew, and more.
The World of Steam

The Goal: Complete post-production on the pilot episode of the new webseries The World of Steam and begin pre-production on the other 5 episodes of the first season

Funds Needed: $75,000

Favorite Reward: An HD digital download of the pilot episode of The World of Steam, "The Clockwork Heart," is available for a pledge of $25+

Splurge Reward: 5 backers pledging $10,000+ will all be credited as Executive Producers in the show's credits and on You'll also receive the soundtrack CD, a hand-crafted limited edition steampunk flash drive loaded with behind-the-scenes footage, an invitation to attend the costume screening of "The Clockwork Heart" (travel, food, lodging, and costume not included), a T-shirt, themed laptop skins, a signed DVD of the complete first season, and much more.
Moustache Bow Ties from Knot Theory

The Goal: Fund production of a batch of moustache bow ties, or Mo Bows

Funds Needed: $500

Favorite Reward: A $20+ pledge nets you one moustache bow tie

Splurge Reward: Want to outfit a whole wedding party in Mo Bows? Pledge $80+ to receive 5 moustache bow ties.
Put a War Bird on Your Wall

The Goal: Print three 48"x72" matte vinyl prints of War Birds (strange attractor art) to hang in a gallery in Georgetown, TX.

Funds Needed: $600

Favorite Reward: A $35+ pledge provides you with both the complete War Birds portfolio and the complete portfolio of Bob Jansen's previous strange attractors project, Wormholes, for a total of 35 high resolution downloadable images.

Splurge Reward: For $500+, you'll receive a large 4 feet by 6 feet print of any attractor from either the War Birds or the Wormholes project. The image will be printed on matte vinyl, autographed, and personally dedicated, and shipped rolled in a tube to keep it safe in transit.
Dice Rings

The Goal: Produce an initial batch of high quality dice spinner rings

Funds Needed: $23,000

Favorite Reward: For a $15+ pledge, receive the dice ring of your choice from their 11 style options, in one of the colors and sizes available

Splurge Reward: With a pledge of $5,000+, you and up to 3 of your friends will get to hang out and game with the founders of Dice Ring for an entire weekend (Friday evening through Sunday night). Includes lodging, food, drinks, and snacks, plus entertainment, but does not include travel to Washington, DC. You (and each of your accompanying friends) will also receive your pick of any 10 rings (from 11 choices), in any sizes or colors available. Only 3 backers will be able to get this reward, one each for January, March, and April 2013.
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.