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As a recurring feature, our team combs the Web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, May 16.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

GADGETS, TOYS, AND MEDIA

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera With Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film Twin Pack (20 Sheets), Compact Bag Case, Batteries and Battery Charger (Blue) for $99.99 (list price $169.99)

Jackery Bolt 6,000 mAh Ultra-Compact External Battery Charger, Portable Power Bank and Travel Charger with Built-in Apple MFI Certified Lightning and Micro USB Cables (Black) for $26.99 (list price $69.99)

iXCC Element II Lightning Cable 6.6ft, iPhone charger, for iPhone 7 6s 6 Plus, SE 5s 5c 5, iPad Air 2 Pro, iPad mini 2 3 4, iPad 4th Gen [Apple MFi Certified](White) for $8.49 (list price $29.99)

KMASHI 10000mAh Portable Power Bank with Dual USB Ports 3.1A Output and 2A Input - Black for $13.99 (list price $69.99)

Polaroid AA Batteries Extreme Alkaline (20 Pack) for $10.51 (list price $14.99)

AILIHEN C8 Headphones with Microphone and Volume Control for iPhone iPad iPod Tablets Android Smartphones Laptop Computer Mp3/4(Grey/Mint) for $19.98 (list price $45.98)

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II (Carbon) for $179.00 (list price $199.00)

TOTU BT-2 V4.1 Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Music Stereo Sports Headset - Red for $25.99 (list price $69.99)

OUTERDO Monocular Dual Focus Telescope Camping Wildlife Hunting Surveillance Sporting Events Traveling Scope Waterproof Optics Zoom Bright and Clear with 10 Magnification 16x52 for $12.99 (list price $18.89)

Fitbit Flex 2, Navy for $59.11 (list price $99.95)

LEGO Star Wars Yoda's Jedi Starfighter 75168 Building Kit (262 Pieces) for $19.99 (list price $24.99)

KITCHEN

Venus Espresso Coffee Maker, Stainless Steel, 6 cup for $30.25 (list price $44.99)

 

Ice Cube Tray Mold Combo Large Square and Sphere Round Silicone Molds for Whiskey Ice and Cocktails for $10.97 (list price $19.99)

Marquis by Waterford Markham Hiball Collins Glasses, Set of 4 for $33.09 (list price $100.00)

Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System for $59.99 (list price $79.99)

Hamilton Beach 22910 Brushed Stainless Steel 2-Slice Toaster for $17.81 (list price $24.99)

Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Coffee Maker, Programmable Brewstation Summit Dispensing Coffee Machine (48464) for $39.31 (list price $59.99)

New Star Foodservice 42917 Stainless Steel 4pcs Measuring Cups and Spoons Combo Set for $7.95 (list price $19.00)

Perfect Pod EZ-Scoop for Single Serve Refillable Capsules for $6.28 (list price $7.99)

Set of 3 Stainless Steel Whisk 8"+10"+12", Kitchen Balloon Hand Stainless Whisk Set for Blending Whisking Beating Stirring by Ouddy for $9.95 (list price $19.99)

Chef Series FLEX Standard Silicone Spatula 600F Heat-Resistant Flexible Silicone Turner Spatula for $11.97 (list price $16.95)

Mueller Spiral-Ultra 4-Blade Spiralizer, 8 into 1 Spiral Slicer, Heavy Duty Vegetable Pasta Maker and Mandoline Slicer for Low Carb/Paleo/Gluten-Free Meals for $27.97 (list price $74.99)

Bellemain Adjustable Thickness Cheese Slicer - Replacement Stainless Steel Cutting Wire Included - 1-year Warranty for $10.00 (list price $25.95)

Lodge P12SG3 Seasoned Cast Iron Square Grill Pan for $26.18 (list price $49.99)

HOME

Den Haven Standing Coat Rack Hat Hanger Holder Hooks for Jacket Umbrella Tree Stand with Base Metal for $18.95 (list price $49.95)

AmazonBasics Rust Resistant Shower Curtain Roller Hook Rings for $4.86 (list price $7.99)

24 Pairs Shoe Rack Organizer Storage Bench - Organize Your Closet Cabinet or Entryway - Easy to Assemble - No Tools Required for $24.99 (list price $59.99)

Northpoint Cashmere Plush Velvet Throw, Chocolate for $4.93 (list price $16.70)

ClosetMaid 1569 Cubeicals 3-Cube Storage Bench, White for $53.83 (list price $69.99)

Crosley Furniture Cambridge Expandable Bar Cabinet in Vintage Mahogany Finish for $381.59 (list price $529.00)

MILLIARD 2" Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper + Ultra Soft Removable Bamboo Cover with Non-Slip Bottom Queen 78"x58"x2” for $99.99 (list price $99.99)

Peanuts Snoopy Pillow Buddy for $22.52 (list price $24.99)

Pinzon Seersucker Duvet Cover Set - Full/Queen, Dark Grey for $48.46 (list price $75.99)

Winsome Wood 29-Inch Saddle Seat Bar Stool, Black for $29.88 (list price $35.87)

Bamboo Bed Sheets Set 4 Pc, Pastel Collection by Cosy House - Silky Soft, Breathable Bedding Sets | Stain and Wrinkle Free | 1 Deep Pocket Fitted Sheet, 1 Flat Sheet, 2 Pillowcases | Queen, Chocolate for $35.45 (list price $59.00)

Winsome Wood End Table/Night Stand with Door and Shelf, Black for $39.88 (list price $59.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

DenTek Fresh Clean Floss Pick, 75 Count for $2.35 (list price $3.49)

VAVA Counter Top Oral Irrigator for Whole Family, Leak-Proof Dental Flosser (600ml Capacity 10 Water Pressure Levels up to 110 PSI, 3 x Interchangeable Nozzles & 1 x Tongue Scraper, IPX6 Splashproof) for $51.99 (list price $79.99)

Philips Sonicare Air Floss Rechargeable Electric Flosser for $44.95 (list price $49.99)

Alba Botanica Very Emollient, Kids Spray Sunscreen SPF 40, 4 Ounce for $7.52

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula, Dandruff Treatment, 16 Fl. Oz. for $12.23 (list price $16.39)

TIGI Bed Head Re-Energize Shampoo and Conditioner Duo, 25.36 oz for $18.50 (list price $24.99)

Batiste Dry Shampoo Original Clean & Classic 6.73 fl. oz (2 pack) for $13.62 (list price $15.99)

VINCENT LONGO Trio Diamond Eyeshadow, Champagne Lily for $20.00 (list price $25.00)

Purell 9652-04-ECDECO Advanced Design Series Hand Sanitizer, 8 oz Bottles (Pack of 4) for $14.31 (list price $15.16)

L'Oreal Paris Hair Care Expert Extraordinary Clay Dry Shampoo, 4 Fluid Ounce for $4.49 (list price $5.99)

HailiCare Silver Grey Hair Wax 4.23 oz, Professional Hair Pomades, Natural Silver Ash Matte Hairstyle Wax for Men Women for $13.85 (list price $25.99)

HSI Professional Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic Flat Iron hair straightener, with Glove, Pouch and Travel Size Argan Oil Leave-in Hair Treatment (Packaging May Vary) for $39.99 (list price $199.99)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND ART SUPPLIES

BIC Brite Liner Highlighter, Chisel Tip, Assorted Colors, 24-Count for $7.00 (list price $9.00)

BIC Pencil Xtra Sparkle (colorful barrels), Medium Point (0.7 mm), 24-Count for $5.48 (list price $6.02)

Bankers Box SmoothMove Classic Moving Boxes, Tape-Free Assembly, Small, 15 x 12 x 10 Inches, 10 Pack (7714203) for $16.20 (list price $19.88)

Lightahead LA-7550 Clear document folder with snap button,Premium Quality Poly Envelope, US LETTER / A4 size, Set of 12 in 6 assorted Colors, Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow, Purple, Maroon for $10.99 (list price $13.99)

Polyair Eco-lite #2 ELSS2 Golden Kraft Self Seal Bubble Mailer, 8 1/2" x 12" (Case of 100) for $19.44 (list price $31.14)

Swingline S.F. 3 Premium Staples, 27% Fewer Misforms, Chisel Point, Half Strip, 1/4-Inch Leg Length, 3750 Box (S7035442) for $3.99 (list price $11.13)

Feela 260 Colors Gel Pens,Gel Pen Set for Adult Coloring Books Writing Drawing 70% MORE INK 130 Unique Colored Gel Pen + 130 Ink Refill (0.6-1.0 mm) for $19.79 (list price $79.00)

Singer 4-1/2-Inch Professional Series Detail Scissors, nano tip for $6.34 (list price $12.99)

Westcott TrimAir Titanium Wood Guillotine Paper Trimmer, 15" (15107) for $43.43 (list price $104.40)

Swingline Extra Large Rubber Finger Tips, Size 14, 12-Pack, (S7054014C) for $3.29 (list price $4.60)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Tumi Tahoe Grove Day Duffel, Blue for $187.50 (list price $375.00)

Tumi Tahoe Edgewood Continental 4 Wheel Carry-On Luggage, Blue - 22" for $337.50 (list price $675.00)

Tumi Tahoe Lyons Backpack, Blue for $172.50 (list price $345.00)

Tumi Tahoe Kent Flap Backpack, Blue for $147.50 (list price $295.00)

Scotts Wizz Hand-Held Spreader for $16.95 (list price $19.97)

Etekcity Air Mattress Raised Airbed with Built-in High Capacity Pump, Height 18", Twin Size for $79.99 (list price $159.99)

Bike Light - Comes With FREE TAIL LIGHT(Limited Time) - Tools-Free Installation in Seconds - The Best Headlight on Amazon Compatible with: Mountain & Kids & Street Bicycles - Divine LEDs for $44.00 (list price $44.00)

Ortho GroundClear Vegetation Killer Concentrate, 2-Gallon for $32.44 (list price $38.17)

High Sierra Loop Backpack, True Navy/Mercury for $25.65 (list price $34.99)

Yodo XXX-Large Outdoor Waterproof Picnic Blanket Tote 79" x 79" Light Weight with Soft Fleece and Padding for $29.99 (list price $56.85)

Segway miniPRO Smart Self Balancing Personal Transporter with Mobile App Control, Black for $499.00 (list price $799.00)

Orbit 58911 Complete Yard Watering Kit for $48.27 (list price $60.34)

Simple Modern 32oz Summit Water Bottle + Extra Lid - Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Wide Mouth Hydro Travel Mug - Powder Coated Double-Walled Flask - Cotton Candy Pink for $24.99 (list price $39.95)

BLACK+DECKER EM1500 15-Inch Corded Mower with Edge Max, 10-Amp for $115.57 (list price $149.99)

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (4-Pack) + BONUS Signature Gold Foil Space Blanket: Designed for NASA – Perfect for Outdoors, Hiking, Survival, Marathons or First Aid (Various Color Options) for $13.99 (list price $24.99)

 

TOOLS

DEWALT DWMT72164 156 Piece Mechanics Tool Set for $99.99 (list price $139.99)

Irwin Tools 4935586 8-in-1 Multi-Tool Multibit Screwdriver for $5.39 (list price $7.73)

Prosvet A100 1200 Lumen Cree-XML T6 led Portable Zoomable Flashlight-5 Mode Adjustable Focus-Water Resistant-Powered By 1 x 18650 Battery or 3 x AAA Battery for $11.99 (list price $25.99)

EvHenGO - 500 pcs Premium Black Cable Ties 4+6+8+10+12-inch - Durable Single-Use Self-Locking Zip Ties for Indoor and Outdoor Use - Small, Large, Long, Thick, Temperature Resistant - Flexible Support for $13.99 (list price $27.99)

Cartman Bungee Cords Assortment Jar 24 Piece in Jar for $12.99 (list price $19.99)

Stanley 33-725 25-Feet FatMax Tape Measure for $19.97 (list price $36.58)

Makita XT273R 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Compact Cordless 2-Pc. Combo Kit (2.0Ah) for $174.00 (list price $199.99)

Makita T-01725 Impact Drill-Driver Bit Set, Black Oxide, 70-Piece for $21.99 (list price $45.00)

Estwing EB-25A 14" Camper's Axe with Shock Reduction Grip, Black Finish for $31.91 (list price $39.99)

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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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May 23, 2017
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