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Ask MetaFilter Contains Everything You'll Ever Want to Know

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Ask MetaFilter is a community site in which people ask and answer questions. There are tons of new questions every day, and they're all over the map -- you'll find life-and-death situations, complex technical topics, and even recipe suggestions. At the moment (as of 9am Pacific on January 6, 2011), I see a bunch of computer questions, along with these gems:

Whats the vibe like in Manzanillo, Costa Rica (Nicoya)? - 0 answers

What would be a good low maintenance freshwater fish that would thrive in a 2 gallon kids aquarium with a bubbler but no heater? - 10 answers

Wicked long shot, but I would like to identify a 15-year-old infomercial because it brought me so much joy. It featured a man in a dance club selling some mysterious service - 6 answers, including someone who found a complete video online showing the infomercial!

It's a big roiling pot of crazy awesome stuff. Check out the Most favorited posts of all time page for such hits as:

I want a badass skill. I want to know how to do something that people will see and think "wow, that is badass." - 108 answers

What are some good, somewhat dirty jokes suitable for telling to my Grandma? - 53 answers

Help! I'm stuck in my bedroom. The knob won't turn much either way and won't come unlatched. The only person who has a key to my house is out of town, so I can't even call a locksmith and have him let in. How can I get out of my bedroom? The door knob is the kind with screws only on the exterior. I've tried to slide a credit card in, but that did not yield results. Anyone have any advice to help me get out of my room? - 115 answers, and a community quickly forms around getting this woman out of her room

You get the idea. Got a few hours/days/years to kill? Ask MetaFilter. Oh, and if you're a design geek you might enjoy their ridiculous 2010 Year in MetaFilter infographic.

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IKEA
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Design
IKEA’s New Augmented Reality App Lets You Test Out Virtual Furniture in Your Home
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IKEA

No matter how much measuring and research you do beforehand, buying a piece of furniture without knowing what it will look like in your home is always a gamble. With its new augmented reality app, IKEA hopes to take some of the guesswork out of the process. IKEA Place features more than 2000 items in the Swedish retailer's inventory, and visualizing them in the space where you live is as easy as tapping a button.

As WIRED reports, IKEA Place is among the first apps to take advantage of Apple's ARKit, an augmented reality platform that debuted as part of iOS 11. iPhone and iPad owners with the latest update can download IKEA's new app for free and start browsing through home goods right away.

To use the tool, you must first select the product you wish to test out, whether it's a loveseat, a kitchen table, or a dresser. Then, with the camera activated, you can point your device at whichever space you want the item to fill and watch it appear on the screen in front of you.

According to IKEA, the 3D models are scaled with 98 percent accuracy. Factors that are hard to analyze from photos online, like shadows, lighting, and textures, are also depicted as they would appear in real life. So if a sofa that looks great under the lights of a store looks drab in your living room, or if a desk that seems tiny online doesn't fit inside your office, the app will let you know. It's the closest you can get to seeing how a piece of furniture complements a room without lugging it through the doorway.

IKEA isn't the first company to improve interior design with computerized images. Several hardware stores and furniture outlets offer their own AR apps. Other services like Modsy let customers pay to create full virtual models of their homes before populating them with 3D furniture. Even IKEA had a basic AR app prior to this one, but it was glitchy and not always accurate. This newest iteration aims to provide a more seamless shopping experience. And with the latest iOS update placing a greater emphasis on AR, you can expect to see more apps using the technology in the near future.

[h/t WIRED]

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
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Art
The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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