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You Will Want to See Wednesday's Best Amazon Deals

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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 17.

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

Portable Outdoor and Shower Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker by AYL SoundFit, Waterproof, Wireless with 10 Hour Rechargeable Battery Life, Powerful 5W Audio Driver, Pairs with All Bluetooth Devices for $26.99 (list price $69.00)

Fritesla 20000mah Power Bank 4USB Portable Charger for Smartphones (Green) for $24.99 (list price $100.00)

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)

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)

ThermoPro TP50 Hygrometer Thermometer Indoor Humidity Monitor with Temperature Gauge Humidity Meter for $7.64 (list price $19.99)

Power Bank RAVPower 26800mAh Portable Charger Total 5.5A Output 3-Port Battery Pack (2A Input, iSmart Technology 2.0) Portable Battery Charger External Battery for Smartphones Tablets and More-Black for $44.99 (list price $159.99)

FRiEQ Universal Waterproof Case for Outdoor Activities - Waterproof bag for Apple iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, 6, 6 Plus, 5S; Galaxy S6, S4; HTC One X, Galaxy Note 3, Note 2; LG G2 - IPX8 Certified to 100 Feet (Black) for $6.99 (list price $19.99)

Garnetics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (6 pack) - to clean Eyeglasses, Lens, Computer, TV, LCD screens, Tablet, Laptop, Cell phone for $6.99 (list price $8.99)

Solar Power Bank, X-DRAGON Solar Charger with Foldable Solar Panel Power Bank 10000mAh Portable Rugged Shockproof Dual USB Solar Battery Charger for iPhone, Samsung Galaxy ipad and More-Orange for $29.99 (list price $79.99)

SENSO Bluetooth Headphones, Best Wireless Sports Earphones w/ Mic IPX7 Waterproof HD Stereo Sweatproof Earbuds for Gym Running Workout 8 Hour Battery Noise Cancelling Headsets for $36.97 (list price $169.99)

HQDmall Fidget Cube Anxiety Stress Relief And Relieves Stress Attention Focus for Children and Adults Anxiety Attention Toy, Black for $8.99 (list price $29.99)

SABRE 3-IN-1 Pepper Spray - Advanced Police Strength - Compact Size with Clip, Contains 35 Bursts (5x Other Brands) & 10-Foot (3M) Range for $8.66 (list price $11.99)

Anker 24W Dual USB Car Charger, PowerDrive 2 for iPhone 7 / 6s / Plus, iPad Pro / Air 2 / mini, Galaxy S7 / S6 / Edge / Plus, Note 5 / 4, LG, Nexus, HTC and More for $9.99 (list price $29.99)

ZOOB BuilderZ S.T.E.M. Challenge for $33.38 (list price $50.00)

UGREEN 3.5mm Male to Female Extension Stereo Audio Extension Cable Adapter Gold Plated Compatible for iPhone, iPad or Smartphones, Tablets, Media Players for $5.99 (list price $8.99)

Car Mounts, Universal Stick on Dashboard Magnetic Car Mount Holder for iPhone 6S/6 6 Plus, 5, 5s, 4, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus S5 S4 Note 5 4 3, Nexus 6P 5X More (stye4) for $7.99 (list price $49.99)

KITCHEN

Ozera 2 Pack Silicone Ice Cube Tray Molds Candy Mold Cake Mold Chocolate Mold, 15 Cavity, Blue for $10.99 (list price $19.99)

Stainless Steel Dough Scraper Chopper – Utopia Kitchen for $8.99 (list price $19.99)

GM Kitchen Premium Stainless Steel Salt & Pepper Grinder with Adjustable Coarseness, Set of 2 for $15.95 (list price $19.95)

Everest Cooler Lunch Bag, Black, One Size for $11.47 (list price $18.95)

DRAGONN Premium Sturdy 12-inch and 9-inch Stainless-steel Locking Kitchen Tongs, Set of 2 … for $12.95 (list price $19.99)

[20 Pack] 3 Compartment Meal Prep Containers BPA Free Portion Control Bento Boxes (39 Oz.) for $17.75 (list price $39.99)

Brita 6 Cup Space Saver BPA Free Water Pitcher with 1 Filter, White for $14.84 (list price $18.97)

Fred & Friends UNZIPPED Hand-Blown Glass Bowl for $15.67 (list price $20.00)

Vintorio Wine Aerator Pourer - Premium Aerating Pourer and Decanter Spout (Black) for $14.95 (list price $40.95)

Alpha Grillers Garlic Press and Peeler Set. Stainless Steel Mincer and Silicone Tube Roller for $19.97 (list price $24.97)

Waiters Corkscrew by HiCoup – Professional Grade Natural Rosewood All-in-one Corkscrew, Bottle Opener and Foil Cutter for $9.95 (list price $25.95)

Reusable Produce Bags - Premium Washable BahrEco Mesh Bags for Grocery Shopping & Storage of Fruit Vegetable & Garden Produce - Eco Friendly Net Bags for $6.97 (list price $27.99)

Extra Thick Flexible Plastic Cutting Board Mats With Food Icons & "EZ-Grip" Waffle Back(Set Of 4) by Cooler Kitchen for $14.99 (list price $19.99)

Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers, CTG-00-3MS for $12.99 (list price $22.00)

VonShef Induction Hob Heat Diffuser Stainless Steel, Medium (23.5cm/9.25") for $18.99 (list price $49.99)

Rachael Ray Cucina Hard Porcelain Enamel Nonstick Covered Round Casserole, 4.5-Quart, Agave Blue for $27.69 (list price $100.00)

HOME

AmazonBasics Hypoallergenic Quilted Mattress Topper, 18" Deep, Twin for $16.99 (list price $19.99)

URPOWER 500ml Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser Humidifier with 4 Timer Settings, 7 LED Color Changing Lamps and Waterless Auto Shut-off for $25.99 (list price $59.99)

Luxury Hotel and Spa 100% Turkish Cotton Banded Panel Bath Mat Set 900gsm! 20"x34" (White, 2 Pack) for $19.99 (list price $29.99)

Poo-Pourri Bathroom Deodorizer Set Lavender Vanilla: Lavender with Vanilla, 3 Piece for $24.99 (list price $29.95)

Akro-Mils 10144 D 20-Inch by 16-Inch by 6-1/2-Inch Hardware and Craft Cabinet, Black for $31.00 (list price $40.76)

Lavender Essential Oil Triple AAA+ Grade Premium Quality - 1 fl. Oz from Pure Body Naturals for $10.95 (list price $18.95)

Vornado 683 Pedestal Whole Room Air Circulator for $79.97 (list price $89.99)

Nicetown Thermal Insulated Grommet Blackout Curtains for Bedroom (2 Panels, W42 x L63 -Inch,Grey) for $20.95 (list price $53.72)

Luxury Cotton Washcloths (12-Pack, Grey, 12x12 Inches) - Easy Care, Fingertip Towels, Facial Towelettes, Cotton Hand Towels - by Utopia Towels for $21.99 (list price $29.99)

GORILLA GRIP Rectangle (35-Inch-by-16-Inch) Non-Slip Machine Washable Bath Mat, Clear for $11.99 (list price $29.99)

Luxury Hotel & Spa Bath Towel 100% Genuine Turkish Cotton, 27" x 54" ,Set of 4,White for $37.81 (list price $69.99)

Gusseted Quilted Pillow (Queen, 2 Pack) - Hypo Allergenic and Easy Care - Premium Quality Pillows by Utopia Bedding for $28.99 (list price $49.99)

Elegant Comfort 55 x 216" Solid Curtain Sheer Voile Scarf, White for $9.99 (list price $29.99)

Great Explorations Wonder Stars Super Kit for $5.58 (list price $10.99)

Household Essentials 5614 Double Hamper Laundry Sorter with Magnetic Lid Closure – Brown Coffee Linen for $31.12 (list price $43.99)

Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner - Corded for $106.99 (list price $129.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, HX6211/30 for $39.95 (list price $69.99)

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream, Extra-Dry Skin, 1.7 Oz for $14.97 (list price $18.98)

Revlon Pro Collection 1875W Infrared Dryer for $16.19 (list price $29.99)

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Dry/Sensitive Skin, Fragrance Free 16 oz for $11.89 (list price $15.99)

Activated Charcoal Scrub 10 oz. - For Deep Cleansing & Exfoliation for $14.50 (list price $27.50)

Listerine Ultraclean Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash, Oral Care For Fresh Breath, 500 ml for $4.94 (list price $7.00)

Crest 3D White Luxe Whitestrip Teeth Whitening Kit, Glamorous White, 14 Treatments - Packaging May Vary for $31.88 (list price $44.99)

PURA D'OR Moroccan Argan Oil 100% Pure & USDA Organic For Face, Hair, Skin & Nails, 4 Fluid Ounce for $18.27 (list price $19.27)

Banana Boat Ultra Mist Sport Performance Broad Spectrum Sun Care Sunscreen Spray - Twin Pack - SPF 30, 2 count, 6OZ for $14.93 (list price $16.99)

Wahl Elite Pro High Performance Haircut Kit #79602 for $47.89 (list price $82.99)

Active Wow Teeth Whitening Charcoal Powder Natural for $24.99 (list price $29.99)

Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment Skin Protectant 14 Ounce Jar for $12.74 (list price $16.89)

CeraVe Moisturizers, Moisturizing Cream, 16 Ounce for $10.97 (list price $11.99)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

Sharpie Accent Retractable Highlighters, Chisel Tip, Assorted Colors, 8-Count for $8.38

Rubbermaid Commercial Slim Jim Receptacle with Venting Channels, Rectangular, Plastic, 23 Gallons, Gray (FG354060GRAY) for $31.95 (list price $37.59)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Black, 12 Count for $7.00 (list price $8.47)

Epson XP-640 Expression Premium Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner & Copier for $79.00 (list price $149.99)

Derwent Colored Pencils, Drawing, Watercolor, Art, Inktense Ink Pencils, 24-Pack (0700929) for $38.05 (list price $46.46)

BAZIC 30 Ct. 8.5" X 11" Side Bound Spiral Premium Sketch Book for $4.75 (list price $9.99)

VicTsing Mouse Pad with Gel Wrist Support , Non-Slip PU Base Wrist Rest Pad for Gaming Typist Office, Black for $8.99 (list price $12.99)

ALEX Toys Artist Studio Scra-ffiti So Cute Artist Studio Scratch Pad Coloring and Sketch Book for $9.98 (list price $11.99)

Paper Mate Gel Pens, Medium (0.7mm), Black, 12 Count for $8.97 (list price $13.99)

Smead File Pocket, Straight-Cut Tab, 1-3/4" Expansion, Letter Size, Redrope, 25 per Box (73214) for $24.15 (list price $29.78)

HemingWeigh Himalayan All Natural Crystal Salt Cooking Tile (8" X 6" X 2") - 2 PACK for $24.99 (list price $59.99)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Char-Broil Performance TRU Infrared 500 3-Burner Cabinet Gas Grill for $283.52 (list price $359.99)

Coleman Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler for $29.69 (list price $36.99)

Ohuhu Double Sleeping Bag with 2 Pillows and a Carrying Bag for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking for $49.99 (list price $99.99)

AcuRite 00850A2 5-Inch Capacity Easy-Read Magnifying Rain Gauge for $3.23 (list price $7.89)

Tapirus Extendable Marshmallow Roasting 4 Camping Sticks | Durable Stainless Steel Equipment BBQ Skewers With Insulated Handles | Telescopic Campfire Forks Utensils For Smores, Hot Dogs & Shish Kebabs for $14.95 (list price $25.99)

Kootek Hand Grip Strengthener Strength Trainer Adjustable Resistance 22-88 Lbs Hand Exerciser Non-slip Gripper for $7.97 (list price $12.99)

Swig Savvy Multi-Purpose Real Borosilicate Glass Bottles – PBA Free Glass Water Bottle + Leak-Proof ALL Stainless-Steel Caps For Beverage and Juicer Use Smoothies Oils & More. 17oz 4 Pack (Color) for $19.95 (list price $29.95)

BLACK+DECKER LSTE525 20V MAX Lithium Easy Feed String Trimmer/Edger with 2Batteries for $89.00 (list price $95.92)

Camp Kitchen Utensil Organizer Travel Set - Portable 8 Piece BBQ Camping Cookware Utensils Travel Kit for $23.99 (list price $39.99)

ELECTRONICS

KrBn Mechanical Keyboard Gaming Keyboard Full Sized Backlit with Phone Holder for $79.99 (list price $249.99)

FUGOO Tough XL- Ultimate Rugged Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker 35 Hrs Battery Life with Built in Speakerphone (Silver/Black) for $249.99 (list price $329.99)

UNITEK Portable USB 3.0 4-Port High Speed Hub with BC 1.2 Charging with 5V 1.2A and Built-in USB 3.0 Cable LED for iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, Chrombook, Surface Pro for $7.99 (list price $12.99)

Optoma HD142X 1080p 3000 Lumens 3D DLP Home Theater Projector for $549.99 (list price $999.00)

TP-Link AC1200 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender, Repeater, Access Point w/ Mini Housing Design, Extends WiFi to Smart Home & Alexa Devices (RE305) for $38.83 (list price $59.99)

SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD 250GB SDSSDEXT-250G-G25 for $99.99 (list price $139.99)

VicTsing MM057 2.4G Wireless Portable Mobile Mouse Optical Mice with USB Receiver, 5 Adjustable DPI Levels, 6 Buttons for Notebook, PC, Laptop, Computer, Macbook - Black for $9.99 (list price $19.99)

D-Link Wireless Dual Band AC600 Mbps USB Wi-Fi Network Adapter (DWA-171) for $19.99 (list price $29.99)

D-Link DCS-960L HD 180-Degree Wi-Fi Camera (Black) for $89.00 (list price $118.99)

TOOLS

Meguiar's G18216 Ultimate Liquid Wax - 16 oz. for $16.97 (list price $22.99)

Thompsons 10100 Aerosol Water Seal Multi-Surface Waterproofer 12oz for $4.98 (list price $6.99)

AUKEY Jump Starter with 400A Peak Current & 12000mAh Portable Charger for Car Battery, Boat, Motorcycles, Lawnmowers and More for $54.99 (list price $62.99)

Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Brush for $4.19 (list price $6.01)

LURICO Digital Dual Laser Infrared Thermometer Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer(-58°F~1202°F/-50°C~650°C) - Accurate Digital Surface IR Thermometer HT-817 for $24.99 (list price $39.99)

SE MH1047L Illuminated Multi-Power LED Head Magnifier for $8.42 (list price $15.44)

Coleman Cable 02309 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord, Orange, 100-Feet for $19.78 (list price $26.28)

Loctite Heavy Duty Threadlocker, 0.2 oz, Blue 242, Single for $4.79 (list price $7.90)VINCA DCLA-0605 Quality Electronic Digital Vernier Caliper Inch/Metric/Fractions Conversion 0-6 Inch/150 mm Stainless Steel Body Red/Black Extra Large LCD Screen Auto Off Featured Measuring Tool for $16.16 (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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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