Original image
Andrew Hunter

12 Wonderful Pieces of Jim Henson Fan Art

Original image
Andrew Hunter

Jim Henson may be gone, but his great works continue to live on every time someone watches The Labyrinth, Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock, The Muppets, Farscape, and The Dinosaurs. In honor of what would have been the creator’s 77th birthday, here are some delightful artworks based on Jim Henson.

1. The Creation of Kermit

How did Henson originally create the Muppets? Fans will tell you that Jim made the first version from one of his mother’s old coats, but perhaps the mental process was more spectacular than that. In fact, it may have looked a little something like this picture, by geek artist James Hance.

2. His Spirit Lives On

Alex Leighton, aka Xander13, created this Dia De Los Muertos version of both Jim and Kermit for "The Iconoclastic Dead" art show at Guru Gallery in Mexico City.

3. Repainting the Rainbow Connection

Artist Adam Antaloczy recreated one of the most famous images of Kermit and Jim, taken on the set of The Muppet Movie, in this beautifully touching painting.

4. How Jim Did It

Speaking of The Muppet Movie, the scene where Kermit is singing "The Rainbow Connection" shows the frog sitting on a log in the middle of a swamp. If you’ve ever wondered how on earth someone could control a puppet sitting in a swamp, then you’ll enjoy DeviantArt user PHUZface1’s illustration of how Jim managed to control Kermit under the water.

5. He’s All Smiles

Of all the cute details in this illustration by Jeaux Janovsky, perhaps the best touch is the happy, living beard on Jim’s face. It’s easy to see the impact Henson made on this artist.

6. An Adorable Reality Distortion

I don’t know what’s cuter about Kayla “Kayke” Miller’s take on Jim and Kermit—the fact that Jim is a Muppet in this situation, or that Kermit is a mostly real frog hanging out on his head.

7. The Muppit

If you’re going to make a Muppets-Hobbit mash up, it’s only fitting to feature Henson as Gandalf the way Andrew Hunter did. After all, Jim is the source of the magic that brought Kermit and the rest of the gang to life.

8. Role Reversals

There are so many great images of Jim puppeting Kermit that Amy Mebberson’s reversal of the situation is a refreshing change—one Henson himself would probably appreciate.

9. Capturing Creation

This digital, paper-cuttings-styled art piece by Dan Barrett does a fantastic job of capturing Jim’s facial expressions in caricature form. As for why Kermit is a sock puppet instead of his full-torsoed version, he explains, "I just think it's really amazing how Jim Henson was able to take unassuming materials like bits of plastic and felt and create fully developed characters with such memorable personalities. This is my way of illustrating that thought process.”

10. Sheesh

Mister Hope’s take on Jim and Kermit is rather simple, but it is still cute and wonderful—just like many of the Muppets themselves.

11. Smiling Down On Us

Andreas Qassim’s portrait of Jim and Kermit really captures the happiness Henson seemed to exude whenever the Muppet master was photographed with one of his creations. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who brought so much joy into the lives of so many people.

12. The Last Train To Morrow

While he might not be the most famous Muppet out there, there is actually a Muppet version of Jim Henson. In fact, Muppet Jim was even in a band called the Country Trio with puppet versions of two other classic Muppet puppeteers, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson. Here is Dave Hulteen’s delightful tribute to their song, “To Morrow.”

Jim Henson may be gone, but he will not be forgotten any time soon. Especially in a world where children still grow up watching Sesame Street and The Muppets.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
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:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


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]