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3D Printer Gives You Chocolate When You Work Out

If being chased by imaginary zombies doesn’t speed up your run, you may need to take more drastic measures—like rewarding yourself with chocolate. EdiPulse, a project from Rohit Ashok Khot, Ryan Pennings, and Florian "Floyd" Mueller at Exertion Games Lab in Australia, combines the wearables trend with 3D printing in order to gamify exercise and produce visible rewards. 

The EdiPulse uses a Polar heart rate monitor that measures beats per minute, and sends that information through to a mobile app. The data gets saved on the Polar website, and once the workout is complete, the app translates the data for the 3D food printer. The printer then prints either a chocolate message or emoticon. The harder you work, the thicker the chocolate.

In order to determine the number of chocolate layers printed, heart rates are divided into four zones: very light activity, light activity, moderate activity, and hard activity. If your heart rate stays between 50 and 70 BPM— generally considered a normal resting heart rate—you’ll get one layer of chocolate. From 71 to 110 BPM, you get two layers; 111 to 140 BPM results in three layers; and 141 to 180 rewards you with four.

Each activity zone also corresponds with a different emoticon. Maintaining a steady workout in the hard activity zone rewards you with a much-deserved giant smile or a cheerful message. But stay in the very light zone, and you’ll get a frown.

When the 3D printer randomly selects a cheerful message instead of an emoticon, the message’s length varies by your workout time. Workout duration is divided into 5 minute intervals, and each interval equals one printed letter. So if you work out for 30 minutes, you’ll get the first 6 letters of a message like “Well done, Mate!”

The intention behind EdiPulse is to encourage exercisers through a tangible final product. While knowing that you’ll get more toned may enough to push you to actually use that gym membership, others might need an instant visual to keep them going.

And don't worry: The developers kept in mind the calories and sugar content and measured out the chocolate dosage so eating the reward won’t negate the workout.

While the project report [PDF] says that people may end up giving the chocolate away or throwing it out, it seems hard to imagine that anyone who would buy the EdiPulse wouldn’t want to eat their hard-earned candy. 

[h/t PSFK]

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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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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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