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Jill Harness

26 Cool Tattoos Spotted at Comic Con

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Jill Harness

Geeks are known for their dedication to their favorite comics, TV shows, video games, and movies—so it's hardly surprising that there are tons of geeky tattoos at Comic Con, the world's largest pop culture gathering. Here are few of the greatest and geekiest tattoos spotted at this year's convention.

1. Batman Vs. Joker

As you might imagine, Batman is a pretty popular tattoo at Comic Con. This one is particularly impressive, since it looks like an actual comic book drawing.

2. Joker Vs. Batman

But if you really want a tattoo that looks like a scene from the comic book, it's best to have an action shot like this Batman and Joker tattoo.

3. Batman: The Animated Series Sleeve

This fan opted to get a whole Batman sleeve, but wanted it to be a little less gritty than many of the comics, so she chose the style of the characters from The Animated Series. While the tattoo isn't quite complete yet (Batman and Talia al Ghul are also on the sleeve, but not yet filled in), it already looks great and will only be better in the future.

4. That's No Moon Tattoo

Did you know that Star Wars was the first film to come in Comic Con? A marketing person from the film showed slides at the convention all the way back in 1976. That's why, aside from the general geek interest, the San Diego Comic Con has always had a tight relationship and adoration for all things Star Wars. This amazing sleeve shows just how much dedication some people at the convention have to the franchise.

5. Aren't You A Little Short For A Stormtrooper Tattoo?

Portrait tattoos require a truly skilled artist and often cost a lot because they need so much detailing. That should give you some idea of just how dedicated this fan must be to get a stormtrooper tattoo with such meticulous detail.

5. Prepare to Become One With the Force, Tattoo Fan

While most fans are quick to loathe the Star Wars prequels, the one character that managed to develop his own fan base seems to be the intimidating, cool-looking Darth Maul. In fact, this was actually the second Darth Maul tattoo I saw, both featuring actor Ray Park's autograph.

6. Time And Relative Dimension In Skin

I particularly like the traditional style of this Doctor Who tattoo. I just wonder if it's a tribute to Matt Smith's Doctor, or if he will add another tally mark when the next Doctor appears.

7. Don't Panic

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has long been a geek favorite, so you should always expect to see a few t-shirts inspired by the books at the convention, and don't be surprised if you see a tattoo as well.

8. Seriously, Don't Panic

Or maybe even a few Hitchhiker's Guide tattoos.

9. This Orwell Was Done Well

There are a number of book-inspired tattoos at the convention; I particularly like this 1984 tattoo.

10. It's No Dark Mark

There are also tons of Harry Potter fans at the convention every year, so it was hardly surprising to find some tattoos related to the books, but I found this guy's illustrations from the book particularly impressive.

11. The Legend of Zelda Tattoos

There are always a few Zelda tattoos to be seen around the con, but I saw more this year than ever before. In fact, this wasn't even the only royal crest chest tattoo I saw.

12. A More Modern Ancient Symbol

This one is interesting because it seems to be a Hyrule crest, but with a modified version of the loftwing rather than the more classic, geometric design. (If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me.)

13. Oh No, He's Only At Half Health!

This one was easily my favorite of the many Zelda tattoos because it featured so many aspects of the game rather than just a logo.

14. Chrono Trigger

Here's a pixelated scene from Chrono Trigger. [NOT Final Fantasy, as we initially wrote. Thanks guys!]

15. I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghost Tattoo

Speaking of classic '80s icons, this Ghostbusters tattoo was simply radical.

16. But I Am Afraid Of These Monsters

There are always plenty of horror fans at the convention, but few of them are as dedicated as this gentleman, who had a full sleeve filled with classic slasher monsters.

17. A Real Monster

I've never seen a tattoo featuring the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler.

18. She's Still Pretty Sexy For A Dead Chick

When you love both zombies and pinups, it only makes sense to mix the two together. I'd expect nothing less from the mind who created Zombie Jesus.

19. A Pretty Poison Tattoo

Here's another delightfully dark babe in a tattoo, this time, Snow White. This lovely lady is a member of the Pretty Poison Burlesque troupe.

20. This Is Hallow-Sleeve

Nightmare Before Christmas fans are a dedicated bunch and this is far from the only sleeve I've seen that was inspired by the film, although it was the only one I saw at the convention.

21. Adventure Time, Come On Grab Your Ink

There were so many Adventure Time costumes this year and the show has a huge fan base. This girl has started getting a whole sleeve based on the cartoon, even if it has only been on the air a few years now.

22. Down the Rabbit Hole

This guy's Alice in Wonderland sleeve was also unfinished, but what he had completed was pretty impressive. 

23. Kill The Wabbit

Thank you Noah and Brad for identifying these great designs as the work of tattoo artist Jesse Smith.

24. The Most Artsy of the Bunch

This tattoo is based on one of the works of Alex Pardee, who has been an exhibitor at the convention for around 10 years. While he started out as an unknown artist with a tiny booth in the "Artist's Alley" area, he now is fairly popular and always rents out a large booth right beside one of the main convention entrances, making him a true Comic Con success story—and this ink a perfect Comic Con tattoo.

25. Tesla Powers Activate

This tattoo actually belongs to my friend David, but it was nerdy and at Comic Con, so it does belong in this collection. 

26. Narwhal? Narwhere?

This might have been my personal favorite at the convention—not just because I'm a sucker for narwhals, but because it is so simple and so cute at the same time.

So there you have it tattoo lovers—a chance to enjoy and explore the great tattoos spotted at Comic Con 2013. If you want to see some of the fantastic cosplay, don't miss my post featuring over 200 costumes. And if you know anyone featured in this article or the names of the artists who did these pieces, let me know in the comments so I can give credit where it is due. Thanks!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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