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The Lego Lifestyle Home

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Legomaniacs can do more than just build things from Lego bricks! You can display your passion in your home with furnishings made from Lego bricks, home products from the Lego company, and products that have that familiar (if not company-sanctioned) shape.

Furniture

Design your own building block furniture with Luna Blocks, which come in many sizes and shapes, but all fit together. The only limit is your imagination!

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Luna Block materials range from steel to pillow-soft foam. See a showcase of different furniture configurations at DVICE.

Lego Lamp

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This lamp is 100 times the size of a Lego brick. It features LED illumination and snap-off nubs so you can store pens and such inside. Available from 25togo in Taiwan for about US $50.

Flash Drive

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Brighten up your computer desk with this building block USB flash drive. They look like the Lego bricks you love, and come in lots of colors. You might also be interested in a USB hand crank that can charge any USB gadget. Make your own from Lego bricks with help from Instructables.

Grandfather Clock

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Professional Lego sculptor Eric Harshbarger built this functional grandfather clock of Lego bricks, including the clockworks! The only parts that aren't made of Legos are the weights and the filaments holding the weights. You'll find many more Lego clocks in this list.

Work Desk

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A firm once hired a highly-desired employee who stipulated that he wanted a desk made of Legos. The company said sure, but when they realized you can't just go out and buy such a thing, they contacted Eric Harshbarger. He had the desk built in a couple of weeks, which involved putting 35,000 bricks together. Harshbarger then turned the desk upside down, disassembled it brick by brick, and reassembled it as he glued the pieces together! The price of the desk hasn't been disclosed, but if you ever have the clout to demand such a perk from an employer, you have arrived.

Bed and Bath

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Even the bedroom can get the Lego treatment with this Lego Make-N-Create Sheet Set, available through Amazon. You can also get Lego bath towels.

Kitchen Containers

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Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories recently posted several kitchenware items made from Legos, such as a napkin holder, fruit bowl, and a vase. These are simple touches that can be taken apart, so they could also be a way to store your Legos between other projects.

Cake

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Your next birthday cake could be a Lego brick with this specially-shaped Lego cake pan. You can also use it to set Jello. When you bake the cake, keep track of time with a minifig timer.

Ice

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That birthday party will need ice. Make yours in a Lego ice tray. You can freeze different colors of Kool-Aid in it to resemble actual bricks.

Jelly Candy Mold

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Instructables member SFHandyman made his own food mold using actual Lego bricks. This involves creating a negative mold of food grade silicone. He then used it to make jelly candy!

Flatware

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This flatware is not flat! Snack and Stack forks, spoons and knives have handles shaped like Legos, and you can lock them together for storage. Therefore, they don't take up as much space as you'd think, plus they won't fall out of your picnic basket.

Using all of these products at once might scare away members of the opposite sex, but if you find someone who shares your Lego passion, you'll know in an instant.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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