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DeviantArt user judasgoat8

14 Fantastically Fun Lego Tattoos

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DeviantArt user judasgoat8

We’ve seen librarian tattoos, ink inspired by Twin Peaks, math-related tats and some of the strangest geek tattoos ever created, but now it’s time to appreciate another geek obsession in ink—LEGOs.

1. Brickbusters

What’s better than a Ghostbusters tattoo? A LEGO Ghostbusters tattoo like this one, which was inked on Geeky Tattoos reader Daniel’s wife by Heather Maranda of Skinfinity Tattoo.

2. The Dark Fig

Similarly, Batman is cool, but LEGO Batman is just plain awesome. Anyone who has ever played the videogame version and smashed bad guys into little block pieces can attest to that—and so can the person who had this great Dark Knight tattooed on them by Max Pniewski of Southmead Tattoo.

3. The Caped Brick-saver

Here’s another LEGO Batman tattoo, which has a more hand-drawn look to it. Tattoo artist Nate the Knife did an amazing job at adding a little artistic flair to this iconic piece.

4. Indiana Jones and the Brick of Meow

What's most fun about this LEGO Indiana Jones tattoo isn’t Indiana himself, but the fact that the artifact he seems to be risking his life for is SpongeBob SquarePants' pet snail, Gary. Well played, Brian Russell.

5. Luke, I Am Your Builder

Any franchise worth marketing seems to have a LEGO set by now, but Star Wars has long been a favorite of block-builders. Here’s a great tribute to two of the most popular geek icons in the world by BME zine user Krista.

6. Self-Portrait In Block

Some of us use online tools to see what we would look like as a LEGO and then save the image to our computer. Other people like the idea of being a Minifig so much that they get their bricky alter-ego tattooed on themselves. Geeky Tattoos reader Trevor (who previously appeared in our scientist tattoos article) is one of those people, explaining that since it’s the “height of narcissism to get a tattoo of yourself … I combat that by rockin’ the LEGO 'Me'ni-fig.”

7. Are You Ready For Some Geekball?

This delightful New England Patriots tattoo was blocked in by Stefano Alcantara.

8. Yo Ho Yo Ho, A LEGO Life For Me

There are a lot of pirate tattoos out there, but this is the first LEGO pirate tattoo I've seen. London at MD Tattoo Studio did a great job making it sufficiently LEGO-esque while still including tons of great pirate imagery.

9. Skull and Cross Bricks

Speaking of the Jolly Roger, the LEGO version is a great option for those who feel they are “not intimidating enough to have a serious Skull and Crossbones tattoo,” like DeviantArt user MrHoeft. Then again, any sea-faring toys are likely to start shivering when they see this tough tattoo.

10. Inking the Plastic

This fun piece was done by Paul Naylor on DeviantArt user judasgoat8.

11. Brick Beach Babe

A lot of men like their ladies curvy, but here’s one gent who prefers his to be a little square. She may not be Marilyn Monroe, but it’s still pretty easy to ogle this LEGO lady by Craig Holmes of Iron Horse Tattoo.

12. Rock Blockster

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel like if David Bowie were a minifig, he would have taken on this alter-ego at some point. Part robot, part spaceman and 100 percent rock, this tattoo by Topsiturby might not resemble any existing LEGOs, but it’s simply amazing just the way it is.

13. Just A Little Interlocking Touch

There’s no rule that says LEGO tattoos need to be big. In fact, the most famous LEGO user in the world, artist Nathan Sawaya, got the bumps from a brick tattooed on his thumb, noting that it was a fitting choice as his work often leaves him with similar marks on his fingers and thumbs.

14. Rest In Pieces

Some people get tattoos for their deceased friends, but Linus Bohman is so dedicated to LEGOs that he got a tattoo dedicated to his favorite discontinued brick part, the finger hinge.

Do you have a permanent tribute to the world’s favorite building toy? If so, be sure to share your tattoos in the comments!

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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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