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Jumilla, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When UFO Homes Were Almost Considered Ski Lodge Alternatives

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Jumilla, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When looking for a place to stay during a ski vacation, most people might think of rustic lodges with decor accents inspired by the pioneer days. Finnish architect Matti Suuronen had a different era in mind when he designed the Futuro Home in the 1960s: quirky, futuristic structures that looked like the flying saucers pictured in cartoons. At least 64 of these UFOs for humans can be found scattered across the globe, confusing passersby and intriguing lovers of retrofuturism.

The project to build these Jetsons-esque ski chalets was commissioned by Dr. Jaakko Hiidenkari, who was looking for buildings that could be built in Finland and relocated to rocky, mountainous areas. Taking inspiration from the alien-obsessed culture of the time, Suuronen decided to make round homes with built-in seating and a hatch entrance at the bottom.

Despite the lack of corners or hard edges, each Futuro Home still has a bedroom, bathroom, fireplace, and living room. And although there's only one bedroom, each home can reasonably fit eight people, if the guests are willing to sleep in the living room. The shape allows for an electric heating system to heat the home from -20°F to 60°F in half an hour, according to Curbed. There's also a fireplace in the living room for extra warmth and ambience.

The small homes may have had some amenities and a space-age aesthetic, but the true selling point was how the design could be mass-produced quickly and cheaply; the first Futuro Home only cost between $12,000 and $14,000 to slap together, which made it an economically appealing alternative to ski lodges. Each structure is made up of 16 prefab pieces that can be transported and assembled on-site, similar to IKEA furniture. Raised legs—another distinct UFO feature—allow the buildings to stand up on all terrain.

Unfortunately, the oil crisis of 1973 proved to be a formidable obstacle—it caused a major spike in the cost of plastic, which is a key ingredient in the homes. With an inflated price tag, the homes lost their appeal.

Futuro Home production might have ended a long time ago, but that doesn't mean people have forgotten about the charming lodging. TheFuturoHouse.com documents the locations of these homes. According to their website, at least 80 to 100 of these unusual buildings were created. Though some have been destroyed and others are still hidden, about 64 Futuro Homes are still around, and at least 15 of those are in the United States.

While this architectural wonder might not have taken off, you can see other attempts at capturing alien chic, like with these bauble homes in Holland.

[h/t Curbed]

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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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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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