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Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

13 Patents Designed to Build a Better Mustache

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Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

You may have some buddies participating in Movember, an annual event that raises awareness of (and money for) men's health issues. Let's take a look at a few weird 'stache-themed patents.

1. Patent US435748, "Mustache Guard"

Patented in September 1890 by Ruben P. Hollinshead, this guard is an improvement upon other devices designed to "[suspend] a gentleman's mustache in order to keep the same up out of the way at the table, thus preventing the annoyance which so frequently is experienced in eating soups and other like foods, and drinking tea, coffee, or other liquids by gentlemen having heavy moustaches." It looks rather painful.

2. Patent USD381462, "Mustache Shield"

Inventor Dennis H. Bailey didn't do too much explaining in his application for this shield. Still, the patent was granted in 1997.

3. Patent US278999, "Mustache Holder"

This device, patented by J.A. Moore in 1883, was a comb that held a man's mustache back so it wouldn't come into contact with food.

4. Patent US213455, "Mustache Cup and Glass"

Unlike other mustache cups—which keep the mustache out of whatever a man is trying to drink—this one, patented by Albert Schenck in 1879, will make sure the guard that keeps a man's 'stache at bay won't also burn the lips, all thanks to the innovative spout.

5. Patent US398925, "Mustache Trainer"

The idea behind this interesting looking device, patented by Louis Auguste Allard in 1889, was that, by wearing it, a man could train his 'stache to grow in the desired form. Theoretically, he would have done this while in private. Other attempts at mustache trainers were not much better, either.

6. Patent US123839, "Mustache Holder"

This patent, filed by Eli J.F. Randolph in 1872, proves this whole mustache guard thing was more than just a passing fad.

7. Patent US135141, "Mustache Spoon"

If your moustache cup isn't working, why not try this spoon, patented by Ellen B.A. Mitchellson in 1873? It would allow you to bring soup to your mouth without "soiling or disfiguring" your moustache.

8. Patent US3858589, "Sideburn and Moustache Shaper"

In name alone, Sideburn and Moustache Shapers don't sound weird at all. But these devices, patented in the 1970s by Catherine E. Geiger, are pretty odd—more like things you'd trace than use to tweak your facial hair. Hold them up in front of your face, trim the errant hairs, and voila! Nicely shaped sideburns and 'stache!

9. Patent US 3944112, "Mustache Cup Adaptor"

Who needs a whole cup when you can just snap an adaptor on whatever thing you're drinking out of? That's the idea behind this device, patented by George W. Miller in 1976.

10. Patent US2262992, "Masquerade"

This patent, granted to Franklyn M. Dessart in 1939, was for a mask that could have different features—like a moustache!—applied to it. Looks like fun, eh?

11. Patent US4206913, "Trick Windmill Novelty"

Blow into one tube of this device, and the windmill turns. Blow into the other, and you get a graphite powder blown onto your face, "so as to produce the appearance of a moustache, to the amusement of all others observing the person trying to make the windmill work." Earl A. Howell, Jr., who was granted the patent in 1980, sure was a jokester!

12. Patent US4710145, "Therapeutic Doll Figure"

Get ready to have nightmares. This creepy looking doll, which was equipped with a tape recorder to play messages, was meant to be therapeutic. It could even be equipped with a velcro moustache to make it resemble someone. The patent was granted to Nancy Hall Vandis in 1987.

13. Patent USD269461, "Pacifier"

Every baby needs a mustache pacifier! Or at least Robert L. Qually, who was granted the patent for this device in 1983, thinks so. Timothy E. Brennan, who patented a similar pacifier, probably agrees.

This article originally appeared in November 2012.

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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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