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Weekend Links: Internet Animal Orchestra

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Flossy reader Margaret sent in this great link: "Have you ever seen a period film and thought, 'that costume looks familiar'? Well, you're not crazy, they do recycle them!" Recycled Movie Costumes is truly a labor of love, and if you adore period pieces then you will probably be familiar with quite a few of the featured frocks!
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As if Reality TV couldn't get any more embarrassing, Ranker.com has managed to put together a list of 12 Cringeworthy Reality TV Show FAILs that will just make you feel even more uncomfortable than usual watching these shows!
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We already know that reality show contestants will do a lot of things for money. But what about you? You may not actually have the option of shaving your eyebrows and never letting them grow back for $1 million, but you can vote whether you would do it or not and see how you compare with everyone else ('s levels of shame).
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We've heard auto-tuning of the news, interviews, and all sorts of unusual things ... but are you prepared for auto-tuned animals? The Internet Animal Orchestra is a cacophony of critter voices, all enhanced to carry a rather catchy beat.
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They may not be as controversial as a dress made out of meat, but these food-based fashion accessories are worth some attention.
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In some cases, what's old is new again. But you just don't hear of little boys anymore with names like "Leslie" and "Walter." Matthew, Michael, Christopher, James have remained among the top ten most popular American names for baby boys a hundred years running, says the Social Security Administration, and they won't be going out of style any time soon. Here are some "forgotten names" and a few words from modern day men who sport them. Do any of you guys have old-fashioned names? Is it a blessing or a curse?
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From the Department of Addicting Entertainment comes a ski game where you are the mountain.
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What do emeralds, a snake and a suit or armor have in common? They are all some of the strangest items found in lost luggage.
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From Flossy friend Jan, an interactive exploration of Monet's works, including a journey through his life. One of the most expertly executed websites I've seen in awhile. Afterwards, stay inspired by viewing some of these amazing human body flowers.
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A big thanks as always to everyone who sent in links this week! Remember to send your finds to FlossyLinks@gmail.com

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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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