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Designed and made by Mayya Saliba / Image courtesy of Ananas Anam

This Gorgeous “Leather” Bag is Actually Made from Pineapples

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Designed and made by Mayya Saliba / Image courtesy of Ananas Anam

You already know that pineapples are delicious and super rich in Vitamin C, but did you know that they could be transformed into a fabulous purse or great pair of running shoes?

It’s hardly a secret that eating a vegan diet is kinder to animals, and many experts believe that a plant-based diet can have life-changing effects on the health of an individual and even the world at large. With the number of vegans around the world on the rise, it’s not just the food industry that needs to adapt. The growing public demand for alternatives to leather and other animal products when it comes to clothing and textiles means that companies are coming up with all sorts of creative options. One London-based company, Ananas Anam, has devised a delicious solution to creating vegan materials: Pineapples.

Called Piñatex, the environmentally-friendly textile is created from the fibers of leftover pineapple leaves, which are extracted through a process known as "decortication." Since the leaves are a byproduct of the pineapple harvest, there is no need for extra water, land, fertilizers, or even pesticides to produce the material. It has a low environmental impact, can be easily mass produced and, perhaps most importantly, is affordable for consumers looking to give their wardrobes a socially-conscious makeover. As the pineapple leaves are harvested in the Philippines by local farmers, Ananas Anam’s products are also helping to create more jobs.

“The farming communities in the Philippines will benefit from the added income from the extraction of the fiber,” Jeanne Rideau, Ananas Anam’s public relations and communications manager tells mental_floss. “Moreover, the potential use of biomass, which is the byproduct of the fiber extraction, will give the farmers the opportunity of using natural fertilizers.”

Image courtesy Ananas Anam

Spanish designer, researcher, and entrepreneur Dr. Carmen Hijosa is the founder and chief executive officer of Ananas Anam. Hijosa’s first company was based in Ireland, where she designed and manufactured leather products for such companies as Harrods. Her work eventually brought her to the Philippines, where she saw a traditional Filipino shirt made out of pineapple leaves.

“As a designer, my objective was to create a product that carried social and ecological responsibility throughout its life cycle, and through it, do something about how to sustain and indeed to heal planet Earth through our actions,” Hijosa says. “Piñatex represents a sustainable solution in the face of today’s social and sustainable dilemmas.”

In an interview with, Hijosa explained that to create the final Piñatex material, the pineapple leaf fibers are made into a mesh, which then goes through both "mechanical and chemical processes to make it into a very strong product" that can be used to create a variety of products, including clothing, shoes, purses, accessories, and even upholstery.

Designed and made by NAE Vegan // Image courtesy Ananas Anam

You are probably wondering where to get some cool pineapple shoes of your own. Well, the wait is over—at least in certain parts of the world. A selection of the company’s products are available for purchase in the UK, as well as online. And well-known brands including Puma and Camper have already made prototypes using Piñatex.

Perhaps the even bigger question everyone is wondering is: do Piñatex products actually smell like pineapples? “No, there is no smell,” Rideau says. Now you know.

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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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© Nintendo
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.