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7 of the Coolest Rooms You Can Stand Inside

Chances are, you're in some sort of room right now—maybe your office or your living room. Look around. Is it boring? It’s pretty boring, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be like this. Just take some inspiration from, or at least go visit, some of the coolest rooms in the world.

1. ROOMS OF ILLUSIONS

Peter Kogler is an Austrian artist who uses art, music, and video on a large scale to blow your mind. This usually involves being in a room surrounded by some of the most headache-inducing wallpaper designs you have ever seen. According to Snježana Pintarić, the curator of Kogler's recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Croatia, the artist covered the walls, ceiling, and floor with a twisting tube design “in order to transform an ordinary ‘box-shaped’ space into one that in the observer generates the impression of being lost in time and space, as if we were lost in a virtual maze." Kogler wrapped an exhibition in Brussels last summer, but his next full-room artwork shouldn't be far off.

2. THE OBLITERATION ROOM

What do you get when you take a completely white room and let visitors cover every surface with thousands of colorful stickers? Artist Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room. It’s called that because the walls and the white furniture are slowly covered with color, “obliterating” the original stark environment. Unfortunately, the Japanese artist and writer last displayed the room in 2011, so you can’t indulge your inner child right now—but with any luck, sometime in the future you might get to let your inner child run wild while collaborating with thousands of other people on a crazy modern art project.

3. INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM

If you like Kusama’s sticker idea but don’t think it's trippy enough, don’t worry—she has another installation you're going to love. Called Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, this one is meant to evoke “the dual sentiments of time standing still and going on forever," according to Wallpaper. But it better evoke that feeling in you quickly, since when it showed at a museum in New York City the lines were so long people were only allowed in for 40 seconds.

At 87 years old, Kusama is still producing art and her installations are still traveling the globe. She recently wrapped a show in London, and she also has a permanent exhibition at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

4. ANECHOIC CHAMBERS

It isn’t just artists who have created the craziest rooms ever—scientists and engineers have done it, too. When they need to test things with absolutely no outside influence, including sound waves, they use something called an anechoic chamber. “Anechoic” means the rooms are quiet. Deadly quiet. So quiet that if you spent any real amount of time in there you would go completely mad.

For 11 years, the quietest place on earth was located at Orfield Labs in Minneapolis. They even let people sit in the room, in the dark. The longest anyone managed to stay in their chamber was 45 minutes. The walls absorb so much sound that you can actually hear your internal organs working.

But in 2015, the Guinness World Record for quietest room was broken by a room at Microsoft. No word on how long someone managed to hang out in there … yet.

5. VAN GOGH ALIVE

Even the most ardent philistine is familiar with some of Vincent van Gogh’s work. You can’t escape The Starry Night or Sunflowers on everything from magnets to mobile phone cases. So how can museums make viewing his work more exciting when people are already so familiar with it? Apparently, by making it really, really big.

Using what the creators call a “vibrant symphony of light, color and sound, combined and amplified” to make “an unforgettable multi-sensory experience,” the "Van Gogh Alive" exhibition is supposed to let visitors view the works in a completely new way. It’s also accompanied by a classical score that represents how Van Gogh was feeling as he painted different works, since his life was so filled with emotional ups and downs.

Unlike some of the other shows on this list, this one is still going strong. You can find out if it is coming to a museum near you right here.

6. VARIOUS WORKS BY JAMES TURRELL

You’ll never experience his works the same way in different places, since the installations by artist James Turrell are all site-specific. He uses the rooms he is given, and then fills them with brilliant light.

Why does he do this? "My work has no object, no image and no focus," Turrell has said. "With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought."

If that doesn’t make any sense to you either, just keep looking at the pretty colors. He exhibits constantly, and his current show is running at the Long Museum in Shanghai, China.

7. SALT CATHEDRAL OF ZIPAQUIRÀ

Despite its fancy-sounding name, the Salt Cathedral isn’t actually a cathedral, although it does attract as many as 3000 people to church on an average Sunday. It is also a huge tourist draw in Colombia.

While a small chapel was built by the salt miners in some of their unused tunnels more than two football fields underneath the ground, a bigger church took its place in the 1950s. Then in 1990, the Colombian Society of Architects opened up a contest for a new, amazing design. The “cathedral” opened in 1995. Technically there are three rooms you can stand in, each representing a different stage of Jesus’s life.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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!

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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

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]

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