CLOSE
Original image

13 Cool and Crazy Variations on the Bicycle

Original image

Bicycles are a great way to get around, but for some people, the standard design could use a little improvement. To celebrate the end of National Bike Month, here's a look at some of the coolest and craziest bicycle variations you might see on the road one day.

1. Taga

While there have been a number of devices that allow you to strap your baby in while you go on a bike ride, the Taga might be the first one that actually turns into a stroller so when you’re done pedaling, you can still push your little one around with you. For those who live to ride, you can even buy a rain cover so your little one stays dry no matter what the weather.

2. ElliptiGO

Do you love your elliptical, but get frustrated by the fact that all that movement doesn’t take you anywhere? Well then, the ElliptiGO may be just the thing you need to get moving for real. This bike has ditched the pedals and instead implemented a set of elliptical steps to make sure you get the full benefit of jogging on a bicycle.

3. Treadmill Bike

For those that prefer the treadmill over the elliptical, the Treadmill Bike lets you take your gym equipment out on the road, using your walking or running power to push the wheels and make you move. It might not be the most efficient  or coolest mode of transportation, but at least you’ll be shedding plenty of calories.

4. Couchbike

Surprisingly, this development in couch potato behavior was brought to you by the same people behind the Treadmill Bike. Personally, I prefer the Couchbike, if only for the undeniable style it bestows upon its riders.

5. Camper Bike

There are plenty of campers that come equipped with bike racks, but a true cyclist wouldn’t want to bother with the car in the first place. Enter the Camper Bike by artist Kevin Cyr. Finally, you can take your trailer with you wherever you happen to bike. You still might want to install a bike rack if you intend to do any mountain biking, though, as I doubt the camper can handle all those sharp turns and dips very well.

6. Renovatia

Jens Eichler’s Renovatia is one cycle that might just be too beautiful to ride. After all, if the riders on this wooden-cycle-built-for-two happen to fall, the beautiful finish might be worn off. Worse still, the bike itself could always break if the accident were severe enough, and with something this stunning, that would be a devastating loss.

7. Cartrider

There are plenty of bikes that have been welded and tweaked to incorporate shopping carts into them. Of course the problem with most of those bikes is that, because they aren’t shopping carts, you can’t actually take them into the store. Instead you have to use a cart in the market, then go outside and transfer your groceries into your bike/cart. Jaebeom Jeong’s Cartrider eliminates this problem by serving more as a cart than a bike. The problem? Well, aside from looking like a goon, once you put your groceries in the bike, you can’t ride it any more.

8. SeeSaw Bike

You’d better not be trying to go anywhere fast if you happen to take a ride on the SeeSaw Bike. That’s because, as the name implies and the picture shows, the bike really is a seesaw ride and only one person will be able to pedal the bike somewhere at a time…and when the seesaw tips over to your partner, they’ll likely undo any progress you’ve already made. Given that you share the one set of handlebars, the steering is an even bigger problem, so just try not to turn anywhere, okay?

9. Innesenti

Admittedly, this is one weird looking bike. In fact, it kind of resembles a backwards tricycle. But don’t let its looks fool you: this is one serious exercise device. It takes its design cues from Formula 1 and Indy Cars, providing it with both incredible speed and shock resistance for those bumpy roads ahead. Best of all, the individualized seat design for each customer ensures that it will also be one of the most comfortable bikes you’ve ever been on. As for the price tag, well, this cycle is strictly for the wealthy –even the cheapest version comes out to around $11,000.

10. Schlooooong Bike

You’ve heard of Schwinn, but for those that can’t get enough limousine, Rat Patrol Oz’s Schlooooong Bike is the ultimate name in stretched bikes. Sure, you probably won’t get far on this completely impractical masterpiece, but you’ll sure look classy when you fall down over and over again.

11. Skeleton Bike

If you’re a Halloween fanatic or a mad-scientist-in-training, you’re certain to love Eric Tryon’s delightful Skeleton Bike, complete with handlebars coming right out of the skull. Of course, if you’re a true mad scientist, then your first thought would be, “how could I get the skeleton to do the pedaling?” Good question, you crazy genius. By the way, you can make this bike your own for only $1,000.

12. Forkless Cruiser

Here’s a bike that’s certain to get the attention of those around you, if only because they think your bicycle is irreparably broken. That’s because Olli Erkkila’s Forkless Cruiser is missing one of the most visually notable pieces of the standard bicycle. Of course, because this bike was designed as an art piece, it’s doubtful that it is actually functional, since it appears the cycle lacks a way to turn the front wheel.

13. Conference Bike

Yes, the Conference Bike seems like a bad joke about what happens when a bicycle is designed by committee, but the bike, originally designed by artist Eric Staller, is actually a lot more functional than it seems. With one person steering and up to seven people pedaling, the bike can actually travel at a pretty decent speed, which is why Google now uses the device to give tours of its campus to new workers. It’s also being used as a safe and fun way to allow the blind to bicycle around town, as it requires only one person with good vision to navigate the cycle. Of course, as its name implies, its most popular function so far has been as a team-building exercise. Still, this monstrosity really is a lot more useful than it might seem at first glance.
* * *
Know of any other fun, goofy or cool bike mods? Tell us about them!

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
quiz
arrow
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image
SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES