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Image Credit: ColetteFu's Pop-up Books, Facebook

10 Pop-Up Books That Are Works of Art

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Image Credit: ColetteFu's Pop-up Books, Facebook

We often think of pop-up books as a simple way to entertain the little ones (or at least we did before the iPad came along!) but they can be so much more than that. When done well, pop-up books can be engaging, imaginative, and even works of artistic brilliance.

1. Haunted Philadelphia

Paper engineer and photographer Colette Fu is an award-winning artist whose 36- by 53-inch pop-up series Haunted Philadelphia features paper interpretations of haunted historic sights around the city like Boathouse Row (pictured above). On her portfolio, Fu explained that she included "Male statues representing 'diversity and achievement of a mature nation...the Laborer, the Poet, the Preacher and the Scientist'" and "images of restrained female mannequins at the Gore Psychiatric Museum" into the full spread.

2. This Book is a Planetarium

Image Credit: Adobe TV

Among Adobe's 2015 Creative Resident Kelli Anderson’s many projects is This Book is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions. The book has a number of interactive features including a working musical instrument and a fully functional mini planetarium

Image Credit: Adobe TV

Adobe filmed Anderson in action, showing off this book and her other equally innovative projects. The Creative Residency enables two artists to spend a year pursuing their craft by providing them with the resources and financial aid they need to bring their ideas to reality. Residents also speak at conferences and give workshops. 

3. The History of Lacoste

Image Credit: Lacoste screenshot

Debuted in 2010, Claude Foulquier and Septime Creation's project is an interactive, digital pop-up book that tells the history of René Lacoste and the famous brand he founded. While it’s not a tactile object, it still incorporates the components of an actual paper pop up book, like little tabs to pull to reveal hidden features. The digital book has been taken off Lacoste’s website, but you can still see parts of it here.

4. The Pop-Up Book of Phobias

Image Credit: josdoming, YouTube

Looking at Gary Greenberg, Balvis Rubess, and Matthew Reinhart’s The Pop-Up Book of Phobias doesn’t quite count as immersion therapy, but it’s a start. Each page is an eerie illustration of a different common phobia including dentophobia, claustrophobia, and arachnophobia. There’s a YouTube video of the book so you can get a sense of how it moves, but for a less time consuming alternative, you can also skim through these pictures.

5. Everyday Wonders

Image Credit: Commercial Archive, YouTube

For Samsung’s 2013 Everday Wonders campaign, paper engineer David A. Carter created a full scrapbook of London as part of a promotional effort of one of the company's phones. The series included five promotional videos showing hand-made pop-up books of different notable cities—New York, London, Singapore, Amsterdam, and Milan—created at home by different paper artists. A press release from Samsung announcing the campaign explained that the goal was to "utilize the craft of paper art to detail in a simple, yet striking fashion the individual features and functionality of the device within the pages of a pop-up book." The videos were shown on prominent screens—like Times Square, for example—in each of the five cities. In a YouTube video, Carter explains his process for making the scrapbook. 

6. Pop-Up Art Book

Image Credit: The Art of Skinner, Facebook

Originating as a Kickstarter campaign from Poposition Press, the Pop-Up Art Book is a collaboration between pop-up book creators Rossten and Marc Meyer, graphic designer Kevin Steele, and six street artists. Each page features street art that’s been deconstructed, digitally cut, and rebuilt as a 3D paper representation. Artists included are Angry Woebots, kozyndan, Jim Mahfood, Junko Mizuno, Skinner, and Tara McPherson.

7. Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros 

Image Credit: Game of Thrones, Facebook

Fans of the HBO series can explore landscapes like King’s Landing in Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. Designed by Matthew Reinhart, the book was inspired by the show’s title sequence and has five full spreads, each with three to five mini pop-ups. The book folds open to unveil a full map of Westeros. A “pop-up review” and a full demonstration of the guide are available on YouTube

8. Moby-Dick: A Pop-Up Book

Image Credit: South Kensington Books, Facebook

Sam Ita's Moby-Dick: A Pop-Up Book tells an abridged version of the search for the great white whale. With multiple pop-ups per page, the book incorporates paper engineering with classic comic panels. Ita created similar books for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Frankensteinand The OdysseyA YouTube video from the Taiwan-based Pop-Up Kingdom provides a full demonstration of Ita's Moby-Dick. 

9. Il était une fois

Image Credit: Benjamin Lacombe, YouTube

Il était une fois (once upon a time), the 2010 collaboration between artists Benjamin Lacombe, José Pons, and author Jean Perrot, beautifully interprets eight classic tales such as Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Little Red Riding Hood. The animated book trailer is available on YouTube

10. Panties Inferno

Image Credit: Cult of Weird, Facebook

Peter Larkin's burlesque themed pop-up Panties Inferno may never get published. Not because it's too risque—there's a highly graphic Pop-Up Book of Sex, so nothing's off limits, really—but because publishers believe that it would be too costly to mass produce. However, some of Larkin's creations were published in The Paris Review, along with an interview with the 88-year-old four-time Tony-winning production designer

Over the last 20 years, Larkin has been combining his technical know-how with his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of burlesque to create and refine a number of drawings and mock-ups that—when arranged in the intended order—would take the reader through a full old-fashioned burlesque show. The idea wasn't to produce a dirty object. In the interview, he explains, "I really wanted to figure out how to make someone take their clothes off in a pop-up book. It's no good having them come off and then having to rearrange everything yourself." 

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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© Nintendo
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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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