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12 Things You Can Do On A Segway

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Early on, Segways developed a reputation for being useless and nerdy, but in the last few years people have found plenty of things you can do with, or on, a segway. The personal transporters are becoming more popular as gas prices rise and more uses are found. Keep in mind, these are things you can do if you have the skill and the balance to ride a Segway as they are made to be ridden.

1. Play Polo

Segway Polo is just like regular polo, except the players ride Segways instead of horses. The first organized match was in 2004, and now the game is played worldwide, overseen by the International Segway Polo Association. The international championship tournament is called the Woz Challenge Cup (yes, named after Steve Wozniak) and has been held annually since 2006. (image credit: Luiza)

2. Off-Road Sports

Some Segway enthusiasts have used a Segway as an ATV, skateboard, bicycle, skates, or an SUV. How fun is it to go "four-wheelin'" on two wheels?

3. Play Golf

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Spice up your golf game with the Segway X2 Golf! It's a special model with tires that won't hurt the turf and attachments to hold your golf club bag and a scorecard.

4. Urban Sightseeing

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Sightseeing can be tiring and hard on the feet. That's why so many cities and historical areas offer Segway guided tours. From Anchorage to Zurich, you can find a Segway tour that allows you to see the sights close up without wearing yourself out. (image credit: iluvcocacola)

5. Build a Wheelchair

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Spanish designer Josep Mora took a Segway, added a seat, a kick stand, a folding handlebar, and ramp. The result is a motorized wheelchair (which is not endorsed by Segway). See a video of the chair in action.

6. Make an Arrest

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Long Beach, New York police officer Jose Miguez gave chase to a stolen Mercedes while on a Segway. At 12 mph, he couldn't keep up with a car, but he kept the vehicle in sight until the teenagers who stole it abandoned the car as it crashed. It was easy to catch up with the perpetrators when they were on foot. Many police forces and security departments are finding that Segways save them money in many ways. Outfit a police department with Segways and you'll find you can cover more area with fewer officers walking the beat. Replacing just a few police cars with segways saves money on gasoline, maintenance, insurance, and parking space. But most importantly, many law enforcement units purchase Segways with Homeland Security grants, so the initial outlay is practically zero.

7. Deliver Pizza

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The owner of Nonni's Italian Eatery in Concord, New Hampshire is battling the high price of gasoline by delivering pizzas via Segway. Mathew Mitnitsky modified the Segway to hold pizzas. He says it saves "a ton of money."

8. Race!

200segwayllc.jpgThe Segway Challenge is an obstacle course race for Segways. It's  part of Gen Con Indy, a gamer convention in Indianapolis. They hold open rides for those who want to try it out, and a tournament to see who is the best Segway rider of all. The next Gen Con Indy will be August 13-16, 2009.

9. Walk Your Daughter Down the Aisle

200dicksonwedding.jpgBruce Dickson has a neuromuscular disability that makes walking difficult. He traded in a wheelchair for a Segway to get him where he needs to go. His favorite Segway memory is his daughter's wedding, in which he was able to escort her to the altar on his Segway. Dickson was concerned that he would roll over her dress and tear it, or somehow draw attention away from the bride, but the outdoor wedding came off perfectly. He has also used a Segway for fishing, dancing, and at work.  Dickson is a lawyer in Washington, DC, a city where Segways are more popular than other places, possibly because of the wide sidewalks and long distances to cover.

10. Take a Road Trip

You could ride a Segway long distances, like across the continent, but at a maximum of 12 mph, it would take a long time. 100 days, to be exact, as Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell found out when they traveled from Seattle to Boston on Segways. They quit their jobs for the project, a luxury you probably can't afford. But you can enjoy their adventure vicariously by watching the movie 10 MPH. The film is here in its entirety, 93 minutes.

11. Dance

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I don't know the story behind this picture of a Segway ballet, but it looks like fun! (image credit: gunnyrat)

12. Make Friends

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Tens of thousands of people have purchased Segways since they went on sale in 2002. More people are turning to Segways as gas prices rise. But those people are spread far and wide. So they meet online at Segway Social, a social networking site for Segway owners. At Segway Social, you can share Segway stories and tips, find a "glide" (a Segway route) map, and meet other "gliders" in your area. (image credit: Lady Madonna)

Special thanks to Kathleen Pierce for researching this article.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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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