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4 Upcoming Toy-to-Movie Adaptations (That Probably Shouldn’t Be)

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You can thank the success of Transformers 1 & 2 for the plague upon your movie houses that’s to come. Hollywood knows a good formula when it sees one. Well, it knows a formula anyway, and since transforming toy robots hit it big at the box office, Hollywood producers have been slap fighting each other to be the next to cash in on your childhood nostalgia with a toy-based franchise. And there is no toy idea too absurd to throw a few hundred million dollars at.

1. Battleship

Question: How do you create a compelling narrative from a game that features no protagonist, no supporting characters and in fact, no characters at all? Simple, make any damn movie you want and just slap a familiar name on it to milk the brand recognition. In the case of this upcoming sci-fi epic, director Peter Berg sends an alien invasion after Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker and, well, the entire human race.

Presumably a boat will be involved.

I can smell the tagline from here: “Next Summer, B12 B10 isn’t Earth’s Lucky Number!”

2. Stretch Armstrong

Not everybody gets the popular toy to adapt. Ever own a Stretch Armstrong? Neither did I, but I have the concept down: he’s a guy, he’s stretchy. And he hasn’t been on store shelves in decades, so I imagine this is a movie designed to appeal to baby boomers nostalgia. And as Hasbro’s Bennett Schneir proclaims, the film will “find a real emotional connection and resonance” with the audience. And if that doesn’t work, perhaps the audience will find an emotional connection and resonance with Taylor Lautner’s pecs as the actor takes on the role of the superhero.

Lautner is carving quite a niche for himself as Hollywood’s go-to guy when it comes to expressionless, interminably t-shirt deprived protagonists.

3. Monopoly

Has anyone in the history of board games ever finished a round of Monopoly? Nope, never happened. Six hours in and eventually grandma snaps and tosses the whole board across the room. So for the game that never ends comes movie that will probably have a 9-hour long director’s cut.

This movie has been discussed for several years now. Originally, the Monopoly movie told the story of a guy who’s really good at Monopoly and one day wakes up in Monopoly City. Would he get to ride in the race car, or the thimble? Dramatic tension! Now Ridley Scott says the Monopoly movie will revolve around a greedy “Donald Trump”-type character who I’m guessing enjoys acquiring property and railroads.

That’s right, Ridley Scott is attached.

Remember when Ridley Scott was the director of Alien and Blade Runner? Any chance this Donald Trump character ends up being a replicant who lays his monster eggs in people’s chests?

4. View-Master

The action of watching a movie, at its base, is just looking at stuff. So making a movie about a toy that amounts to just looking at stuff is a natural. It’s looking at stuff about looking at stuff. Ooooo, meta.

The creators behind the inevitable View-Master movie, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, are keeping mum about plot specifics, possibly because there aren’t any. The movie's title on IMDb is Untitled View-Master Project (2012). Nonetheless, Orci and Kurtzman promise View-Master will follow in the vein of 80s classics like Goonies. Except, you know, you’ll have to watch it one frame at a time.

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