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12 Unconventional Things to Hide in Easter Eggs

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The best part of Easter for most little kids is the egg hunt. While any parent can add some jelly beans and be done, we know you're looking to take your egg hunt to the next level. Here are some non-candy items that fit nicely in those little plastic eggs.

1. ERASERS; $12

These adorable animal erasers are a step above the usual pink ones you might find in most pencil boxes. There are 20 animals randomly selected in each package.

Find it: Amazon

2. POKEMON FIGURES; $16

An even better deal is this shipment of 144 plastic Pokemon figures. You can cover your whole lawn in eggs with that kind of stock.

Find it: Amazon

3. FINGER PUPPETS; $11

Thanks to their hollow nature, finger puppets are easy to fold up and stuff in eggs of any size. These little animal puppets come in packs of 12.

Find it: Amazon

4. LEGO PIECES; VARIES

Buy a small LEGO kit and disperse the pieces in different eggs. Now your child can slowly piece their LEGO creation together. You can also just pop in some minifigs for a quicker reward.

Find it: Amazon (Batman), Amazon (Chick)

5. TEMPORARY TATTOOS; $13

Cover your kids in festive tattoos. These colorful Easter-themed tats come in groups of 144.

Find it: Amazon

6. PUNCH BALLOONS; $6

Buy 12 special balloons that come with rubber bands on the end. The balloons are perfect for punching and getting some of that pent-up sugar energy out.

Find it: Amazon

7. PUZZLE PIECES; $10

Just like the LEGO pieces, you can hide a few puzzle pieces in each egg.

Find it: Amazon

8. CLUES; $11

Turn your egg hunt into a treasure hunt by writing clues on these stickies and hiding them in each egg. Together, the clues can reveal where to find the big prize, like a giant chocolate bunny or Easter basket.

Find it: Amazon

9. COUPONS; $10

Buy a ream of tickets and write whatever you'd like on them. Things like "trip to the zoo" or "good for one new book" are sure to be hits.

Find it: Amazon

10. SEEDS; $16

Get your child interested in spring gardening with packets of seeds. Plant some carrot seeds in hopes of bribing the Easter bunny next year.

Find it: Amazon

11. BEADS; $13

Hide some beads and string in various eggs and you can have a fun craft session after the hunt.

Find it: Amazon

12. GROW CAPSULES; $11

Remember grow capsules? They're the perfect size for hiding in eggs and come in lots of themes like dinosaurs, vehicles, and bugs.

Find it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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