CLOSE
Original image
YouTube // BrainCraft

How LEGO Helps Blind People See

Original image
YouTube // BrainCraft

Matthew Shifrin works to make LEGO kits accessible to blind people. Along with help from his family friend Lilya Frinkel, Shifrin became an expert LEGO model builder, developing a scheme to translate visual LEGO assembly instructions into Braille. Shifrin wrote:

Lilya could make just about anything accessible for the blind. Making things accessible was a challenge she enjoyed, but LEGO was different. It was impossible to Braille the blueprints. The instruction manuals had no words, and they were too complicated to be turned into raised-line drawings. Building a model required so many steps that I couldn't copy them all. LEGO was the only thing that stubbornly resisted adaptation.

Or so I thought.

For my thirteenth birthday, Lilya had custom made instructions for the Battle of Almut, a Middle Eastern domed castle. How had she done it? Where did she find text-based instructions?

It turned out that she didn't find them--she created them! Lilya wrote out the instructions step by step, describing every blueprint, giving names to every kind of LEGO piece, figuring out the most logical sequence for a blind person to follow. She also sorted the LEGO pieces, putting the pieces necessary for each step into a Ziploc bag and labeling each bag in Braille.

Shifrin has begun posting these instructions on his website.

In this 13-minute documentary, Vanessa Hill visits Shifrin to explore his work. This is not just about LEGO, it's about spatial perception, which is fascinating stuff. If you're sighted, keep an eye out for the Braille display Shifrin uses—that device pops up one line of Braille at a time, and along with the attached keyboard, allows easy access to long sets of Braille instructions.

Enjoy:

If you liked that, you might enjoy this outtake video in which Shifrin's screen-reader reads out 10,000 digits of Pi from a YouTube comment. (Then he flips it into Russian mode and does it again.) This is a nice mini-demo of how screen-reader software works, even for silly stuff like YouTube comments.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Lists
The 5 Biggest LEGO Sets Ever Made
Original image
iStock

While technology focuses on making everything smaller, Denmark-born company LEGO has seen unprecedented success making everything bigger. Their official build kits can number in the thousands of pieces, enough to construct elaborate, towering, and massive objects. If you have a lot of spare time and patience, take a look at the five biggest LEGO sets ever made.

1. TAJ MAHAL

The LEGO Taj Mahal sits on display
Jose Sa, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Originally released in 2008, LEGO’s Taj Mahal set wowed collectors and casuals alike with its devotion to detail. Consisting of 5922 pieces, it remains the largest set on a per-piece basis of any LEGO set ever made. (It also comes in at a towering 16 inches when completed.) In 2010, soccer star David Beckham told an interviewer that he spent much of his spare time in Italy between games building the set.

2. ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S MILLENNIUM FALCON

The LEGO Millennium Falcon sits on display
Ronny Nussbaum, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

It would be nearly 10 years before a new Star Wars film arrived in theaters, but in 2007 LEGO decided to release their most complex Force-related product yet: the 5197-piece Millennium Falcon. To help fans appreciate the scope of this build—which measures three feet by two feet when completed—Gizmodo’s unboxing video revealed that the instruction manual alone weighs four pounds. It’s currently regarded as the most valuable LEGO set ever released, with resales averaging nearly $4000.

3. GHOSTBUSTERS FIREHOUSE HEADQUARTERS

The LEGO Ghostbusters Firehouse entrance is shown
Vincent Teeuwen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The arrival of 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot brought with it a sea of merchandising. One of the few to cross the streams and feature characters from both the current version and the original 1984 film was the LEGO version of their firehouse office space, which clocks in at 4634 pieces. While the towering frame of the building requires plenty of bricks, it’s the detail inside that ups the part count: Opening the firehouse reveals tons of tiny details taken from the films, including a dancing toaster and the zombie cab driver.

4. TOWER BRIDGE

The LEGO Tower Bridge is one of the biggest LEGO sets ever made
Norbert Schnitzler, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A brick-perfect replica of London’s famed crossing over the River Thames, the Tower Bridge was released in 2010 and comes boxed with 4287 pieces. The set features a working drawbridge and more than 80 tiny windows.

5. BIG BEN

The LEGO Big Ben set appears on top of a map
Matt Brown, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The latest in the biggest LEGO sets ever made, 2016’s Big Ben clocks in at 4163 pieces. The completed work stands nearly two feet tall. LEGO designers also went for some synergy, noting that the scale of Big Ben and the London Bridge are comparable, making them a perfect co-display—and a testament to your towering patience.

Original image
LEGO Systems Inc.
arrow
fun
LEGO Built a 9-Foot-Tall Statue of Liberty in the Smithsonian
Original image
LEGO Systems Inc.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has a new wing, and it's celebrating with a giant LEGO masterpiece. The just-opened second-floor renovation of the museum focuses on American democracy with exhibitions on the theme "The Nation We Build Together." As such, the museum teamed up with LEGO to honor that symbol of the American melting pot, the Statue of Liberty. LEGO designers created a 125-pound, 1:32 scale replica of the New York City statue for display at the museum, where it will remain until the end of the year. In total, it rises 300 LEGO bricks tall (9 feet) and contains 25,375 pieces. Led by LEGO Master Builder Erik Varszegi, it took four builders 292 hours to put it together. You can watch the process in LEGO’s timelapse below.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios