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6 Multi-Purpose Wonder Bras

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You might think that bras are pretty much fulfilling their function in life—they do their job and most of the time, they do it well. But lucky for us, some very creative inventors disagree. This post is for all of you who wear bras and have thought, "Man, I wish this thing did something else."

1. The Putting Mat Bra

Evidently, golfing has been growing in popularity among Japanese women—so much so that lingerie designer Triumph recently released the Nice Cup in Bra, a bra and corset garment that, when removed, serves as a 1.5 meter putting mat. No, really. Women, struck by the immediate desire to sink some putts, can take off the bra, unroll the mat, and aim at one of two cups at the end of it. When the wearer sinks a putt, the bra yells, "Nice one!" from built-in speakers. As the UK's Telegraph so aptly pointed out, what the wearer does to cover herself while putting remains unclear.

This isn't Triumph's first foray in the realm of weird and wonderful ladies' undergarments.

Earlier this year, the company released the Husband Hunter Bra, featuring a countdown clock that stops once a ring is inserted and then goes on to play a tinkly version of "The Wedding March."

2. The Quit Smoking Bra

This was another brainchild of the wacky folks at Triumph: A bra that helped the wearer quit smoking. According to Triumph, the bra released the scents of lavender, which has soothing properties, and jasmine, which somehow alters, for the worse, the flavor of cigarette smoke. The company, which created a prototype of the bra in 2003, also said the bra was treated with "liquid titanium" to "break down cigarette smoke."

3. The Gas Mask Bra

The winners of this year's Ig Nobel public health award got the nod for their invention of a bra that could also double as a gas mask. Two, actually—one for the wearer and one for her lucky companion. The bra was invented by Dr. Elena Bodnar, a Ukrainian native now living in Chicago who has been studying the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown for years, and her colleagues, Dr. Raphael Lee and Sandra Marijan. Said Bodnar, "You have to be prepared all the time, at any place, at any moment, and practically every woman wears a bra," noting that the bra would be useful in the event of rioting, freak dust storms, nuclear disaster, you name it.

4. The Breast Cancer Detector

The breast cancer detecting bra is certainly the most useful of the "smart" bras—according to the bra's developers at the UK's University of Bolton, the bra was able to detect cancer before a tumor began growing and was able to evaluate the effectiveness of any breast cancer treatment. The bra's technology relied on a microwave antenna woven into the fabric that could sense any abnormal temperature changes in the breast tissue, abnormalities often associated with the formation of cancer cells. Researchers went public with the bra in 2007 and hoped then to have the bra in stores within a few years.

5. The Big Booby Bra

Believe it or not, this isn't just your bog standard Wonderbra—this bra uses a similar technology to the breast cancer detecting bra, but instead of monitoring the breast's temperature to detect cancer-predicting thermal abnormalities, this detects sexual arousal. When the wearer's body temperature rises, supposedly indicating arousal (and not, for example, being stuck on a crowded bus), the reactive expanding foam of the cups squeeze the breasts together. The bra, called the Smart Memory Bra, is made by a Slovenian company called Lisca and is available here.

This should not be confused with the Day to Night bra, which is a bit more of a DIY solution: During the day, the bra is worn sans the inserts, presumably so one is taken seriously in board meetings; at night, the wearer can add the "chicken cutlet" inserts for instant sex vixen cleavage.

6. The Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Bra

bra-wrinklesCleavage, just like everything else, gets older. And when a woman sleeps on her side, she often wakes up with wrinkles between her breasts. As she ages, the wrinkles stick around for longer and longer after she wakes up, until they just don't go away at all. Designed by a Dutch woman who noticed precisely this phenomenon, La Decollette is a harness that features a wide strap in the front and cutouts for the breasts and promises to help keep the area between your breasts wrinkle-free, at least for a while. Not a particularly sexy garment, the bra does look a lot like something Lady Gaga would wear.
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Have you heard of any other innovations in the bust protection and uplift industry? I've been told of a bra that could warn the wearer of falling meteors and other debris, but unfortunately, could find no trace of it on the Internets—anyone out there know what I'm talking about?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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