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7 Special Oscar Categories and Awards

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While Oscar categories such as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Director are well-known, there are a few special categories and awards that are a little more obscure. The Special Academy Awards—which are voted for by special committees and not by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—aren't presented on an annual basis like the major categories. Here are seven of these unfamiliar Oscars.

1. Academy Honorary Award

In 1948, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) instituted a special award for people who have had extraordinary career achievements or who have contributed to the film industry as a whole. Before 1948, the award was called the Special Award and the Honorary Award. Interestingly, the award is not limited to just individuals, but also open to motion picture organizations such as the National Film Board of Canada, individual movie studios, and outstanding individual film achievements like Rashomon and Bicycle Thieves. Past recipients of the Academy Honorary Award include Robert Altman, Sophia Loren, and Steve Martin.

2. Gordon E. Sawyer Award

Gordon E. Sawyer was the legendary sound director for Samuel Goldwyn Productions. Throughout his career, Sawyer was nominated 13 times and won Academy Awards for Best Sound for the The Bishop’s Wife, The Alamo, and West Side Story. He was also a member of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. After Sawyer’s death in 1980, a special award was instituted to honor individuals whose technological contributions to the film industry brought credibility to motion pictures. The Gordon E. Sawyer Award has only been given to 22 people since its inception in 1981, including Douglas Trumbull, Takuo Miyagishima, and Ray Harryhausen.

3. Academy Juvenile Award

In 1934, the AMPAS established the Academy Juvenile Award—also known as the Juvenile Oscar or the Oscarette. This honorary award was given to actors under the age of 18 for their "outstanding contributions to screen entertainment." The pint-sized prize was a miniature Oscar statuette that stood 7 inches tall (the full-size award stands at 13-and-a-half inches).

The Academy Juvenile Award was periodically given to child actors from 1934 until it was discontinued in 1961. Now actors under the age of 18 are nominated with their adult counterparts in various categories. Recipients of the Oscarette included Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Hayley Mills.

4. Academy Special Achievement Award

In 1972, the AMPAS established the Academy Special Achievement Award for highly exceptional contributions to motion pictures that were undefined by annual categories. For example, L.B. Abbott and A.D. Flowers won the Academy Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects for The Poseidon Adventure in 1972. At the time, the Best Visual Effects category that we know today was changed and modified under different titles and specifications such as Best Engineering Effects or Best Special Effects.

The honorary award was discontinued after 1995, when Toy Story animator John Lasseter accepting the Academy Special Achievement Award for First Feature-Length Computer-Animated Film.

5. Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

Danish-born Jean Pierre Hersholt was a prominent actor and director in Hollywood from the 1930s to the '50s. Hersholt served as the president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which supported industry employees with health care. He later helped start the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in the 1940s. Upon his death in 1956, the AMPAS issued the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given to an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry." Past honorees include Samuel Goldwyn, Bob Hope, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Oprah Winfrey and, most recently, Angelina Jolie.

6. Academy Scientific and Technical Award

Since 1931, the Academy has handed out honorary awards that celebrate significant milestones in motion picture technology. The award can be given to individuals, organizations, and companies that advance technical, scientific, and engineering achievements in the film industry. Although the Academy doesn’t give out this award every year, they have given the Scientific and Technical Award to Eastman Kodak, Dolby Sound, and IMAX Entertainment.

7. Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award


Irving Grant Thalberg was a film producer for MGM who developed the studio's brand of sophisticated films throughout the 1920s and '30s. The award is given to film producers whose body of work is of consistently high quality. While the honorary award is technically an Oscar, its recipients are given an award with a bust of Irving G. Thalberg instead of the Oscar statuette. Since the award was instituted in 1937, only 38 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Awards have been granted to film producers, who include David O. Selznick, Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Warren Beatty, and George Lucas.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]