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Video Game Furnishings for Your Home

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There are so many furnishings and household items inspired by video games that you'd think hardcore gamers must be home decorating freaks. I think it's more likely that almost all of us would like at least one thing in our homes to represent pure fun. Or maybe two things. Here are ten possibilities.

1. Tetris Mirror

The acrylic Tetris Mirror was designed by Soner Ozenc. This mirror can be used with all thirteen pieces fitted together or as far apart as you want to mount them. It comes with enough sticky pads to attach each piece to your wall. And it's only £ 18.00!

2. PacM Chair

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This chair called PacM was designed by Jose Jorge Hinojosa Primo. Now there's a cozy place to curl up in while you're chasing ghosts on your handheld system.

3. 8-bit House Numbers

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A cool way to tell the neighbors you're a gamer! These laser-cut 8-bit house numbers are homemade, so if you want your own, get the laser out.

4. Tetris Bathroom Tiles

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A tile supplier in England makes bathroom tiles in Tetris shapes! Pick up to seven colors for the six shapes and design your own video game bathroom or kitchen. For faster installation, they also offer sheets of mosaic tiles with preset patterns.

5. Donkey Kong Shelving

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Whoever put this Donkey Kong shelf unit together didn't miss a detail, from the decorative shelf edging to the ladders to the monkey at the top! It will hold all your games and accessories.

6. Nintendo Controller Pillow

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There are several Etsy vendors who were selling Nintendo Controllers Pillows at one time or another, but they keep selling out! Maybe the best way to get one is to make your own, like Craftster member ViciousEdge did.

7. Space Invaders Cutting Board

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Livejournal user Captn Sideburns made a Space Invaders cutting board by assembling wood blocks just the way an 8-bit invader is pixelated. Awesome!

8. Space Invaders Lamp Shade

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You can get this Space Invaders lamp shade in either table lamp version for your bedside or ceiling lamp version so you can feel as if the invaders are dropping down toward your line of fire.

9. Ghosty Lamp

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The Ghosty Lamp from Ginepro Design comes in four pastel colors. Get one that hangs on the wall or that comes on a lamp stand for your bedside table.

10. Puckman

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From the same company, it's Puckman, a bookcase ready to gobble up whatever else you have on the wall, such as the Ghosty lamp, or as seen in the picture, your flat screen TV.

If none of these ten game-themed home accessories strike your fancy, or even if they do, see more in The Retro Fun and Games House, 8 Awesome Videogame Quilts, and 11 Housewarming Gifts for the Dedicated Gamer.

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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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