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11 Game-Inspired Cakes

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We’ve featured cakes based on video games before, but for those who prefer to play their games in the real world against non-virtual friends, here are 11 great tribute desserts.

1. Dungeons & Dragons

Adorned with gold coins and two twenty-sided dice, this dragon would be the perfect complement to any epic D&D session. The gorgeous birthday cake was made by Mike’s Amazing Cakes for Gizmopolis writer DougO’s friend’s 30th birthday.

2. Settlers of Catan

This great Settlers of Catan cake was made by Kalli Cakes for When Geeks Wed readers Carol and Kyle. Not only does the cake look perfect, it even pulls apart in little hexagonal sections just like the real game board.

3. Billiards

This billiards cake by Cake Central user littleshamrock21 is a perfect way to celebrate any pool shark’s birthday.

4. Monopoly

While there are plenty of Monopoly-themed cakes out there, this design by Michelle Cakes is certainly top-tier material. That’s not only because the paint on the box looks so convincing, but also because it comes with so many delightful recreations of the game’s famous accessories, and a few of the couple's personal additions. My only critique? What’s Monopoly without a Scotty dog?

5. Chess

Like Monopoly, there is no short supply of chess cakes. What makes this great creation by Elana’s Cakes and More stand out is the fact that it looks like the board and pieces are made of well-polished marble. I’d be worried it would crack my teeth if I took a bite.

6. Game of Life

The Game of Life is all too fitting for a birthday celebration. Including photos from the person’s life and a few real game pieces on the cake, Johnson’s Custom Cakes made this one a perfect walk down memory lane.

7. Operation

When Anne Heap of Pink Cake Box’s brother graduated from his cardiology fellowship, Anne baked up this delightful take on the classic game of Operation. The best part? Cavity Sam's nose actually lights up – just like in the real game.

8. Scrabble

CakeCentral user ToniRod made this for her mother’s birthday: a fully recreated Scrabble board, including the score pad, a pencil and tile holders and a game in play with a message for the birthday gal.

9. Hungry Hungry Hippos

Here is a great game that most adults have fond memories of.  This cake by Dolce Designs allows you to remember those good times while giving you an all-new fun memory with the game.

10. Candy Land

Back in 2009, Debbie Does Cakes made this great Candy Land creation for HASBRO to help the company celebrate the 60th anniversary of this classic children’s board game.

11. The Variety Pack

This creation by Cake Central user Jewelld Cakes features elements from The Game of Life, Monopoly, Scrabble, Taboo and Twister – now that’s how to celebrate game night in style!

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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