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Stephanie Hornig

11 Couch Designs of the Future

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Stephanie Hornig

Are you just gonna sit there? When you could be sprawling, cuddling, storing, or hiding? Check out 11 new concepts in sofa design.

1. Sleeping Back With Legs

The Austrian designer Stephanie Hornig describes her Camp Daybed (above) thusly: “The camp daybed is a sleeping bag with legs, on which we can relax during the day and sleep at night.” It doesn’t have much back support, but given the choice between cocooning up inside my couch or just sitting on it, call me a caterpillar every time.

2. Something for every room

Courtesy of Archello

For her final project at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Fanny Adams designed the ultimate Leatherman of futons. It’s a double bed, it’s a couch, it’s a storage area, and it’s a table and desk. It’s all you will ever need if you ever have to go back to living in that storage unit.

3. A couch you can actually get lost in

Courtesy of Gizmag

Created by Italian designer Emanuele Magini, The Sosia (which means Doppelganger) is Play-Doh is sofa form. You can slouch it, zip it, divide it, and hide inside of it. Actually, that is way better than Play-Doh.

4. Naptime included

Courtesy of DesignRulz

Multiplo could be your everything, especially for parties. First, all the guests at your place sit in a square and tell everyone one interesting fact about themselves. Then, with a few folds, snacks are served on what is now a table. Then, you can stack them up and play fort. Lastly, lay the whole thing out for multiple person naptime. Awesome.

5. Gone to the dogs

Courtesy of Yankodesign

INU YOCHI Dog Pod, Hound Heaven.” Your dog’s sofa is boring, too. This one lets a pooch really dig himself in and get comfortable.

6. The Origami Sofa

Courtesy of Cattelan Italia

The Origami Sofa Bed by Andrea Lucatello. It’s not so much about the comfort or the versatility (although the Origami does fold down into a funky little bed)—it’s about the triangles. You just don’t see enough triangles beautifully rendered in furniture design.

7. A Bean bag straight out of Star Trek

Courtesy of Alexander Rehn

The Cay Sofa is from Swiss designer Alexander Rehn. It’s supposed to be like a hyper-intelligent bean bag, anticipating your movements. I’ll admit the video doesn’t make the product look too inviting, what with all the rolling and flopping going on. But it does look like something straight out of the Star Trek: The Next Generation prop department, which is all some people really want in a sofa.

8. Bamboo-framed Sofabed

Courtesy of Ole Jensen Design

There is some undeniably sweet about the "We are Families" Sofabed by Ole Jensen. He used only two materials—cotton and bamboo—and made a simple couch that is actually just a pile of little sleeping mats. It doesn’t look like it’s for actual sitting, but who cares? It’s so adorable!

9. For any mood

Courtesy of Design Rulz

The Anima Causa Feel Seating System is balls. Yep, 80 foam balls all tied together and waiting for you to pile into any position that “reflects the ever changing emotional state of the body.” Set mine to “ennui.”

10. Reclining is the new sitting

Courtesy of Design Rulz

The Carousel Sofa by Andrej Statskij is more proof that lying is the new sitting. The entire piece is made from coated polyurethane foam and was inspired by carnival rides. Carnies not included, but not difficult to obtain, either.   

11. Basically...a pillow.

Courtesy of Design Rulz

The Blandito pillow, from Oradaria Design in Florence, was intended to shake up the world of “sofa morphology.” This means, I think, that sofas should not be just stupid big chairs that don’t do anything. The Blandito can be folded into a love burrito, tied into a chair, or pinched into a big soft stool. 

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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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