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Pop Chart Lab

100 History-Making Cameras on One Poster

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Pop Chart Lab

These days we take it for granted that we can capture a single moment with the click of a button. Photography hasn’t always been as simple as it is now, but it has arguably always been pretty awesome. To celebrate photography or, more accurately, the devices that make it possible, Pop Chart Lab has designed a stunning new poster that tracks the history of the camera from 1888 to today. The poster, called “A Visual Compendium of Cameras,” features hand-illustrated images of 100 different cameras that can be considered landmarks in the history of photography.

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The poster begins with the original 1888 Kodak camera, concludes with two new 2013 models, and depicts influential cameras from nearly every decade in between. According to Will Prince, Managing Editor at Pop Chart Lab, the selection process for the featured cameras was guided by three “i”s: They sought to include “cameras that were important to the evolution of photography, cameras that were interesting or weird, and finally cameras that have great cultural influence, be it through general iconography or ubiquity," he says.

Some cameras, like Kodak's Brownie and the first SLRs, were included because “they set the standard for new generations of photography and how people captured reality in still images," Prince says. "Certain devices, while not necessarily changing the mold of the medium, were so fun—[like in their] body design and quality of the developed picture—that they achieved almost cult followings in the tech world. This goes especially for plastic 'toy' cameras like the Diana F+ and the Lomography Action Sampler, whose lousy-but-awesome outputs are coveted by vintage-obsessed photography devotees."

The images on this poster can help us appreciate the advances photographic technology has made throughout these generations, to the point where we can now snap photos with our iPhones, a device that also made the list. “It's no secret that most photo-philes cringe when someone shows them an ‘almost professional’ shot taken on someone's phone," Prince says. "But there's also no denying the iPhone's influence—it's the world's most popular camera.”

While many of the cameras on this poster earned their place by being innovative and groundbreaking, a few nabbed their spots by simply being unique. The Minox Spy Camera, for example. "The Minox is evocative of Cold War espionage, all James Bond and pulp spy hero," Prince says. "The camera itself could be taped inside your collared shirt, the little protracted lens placed into one of your button holes. Probably really good for snapping secret documents and contraband."

Another interesting camera was the Graph-Check Sequence Machine. “[It] had eight little lenses and shutters, like the eyes of a bug," Prince says. "The shutters went off in sequence, capturing eight moments in time of a moving object. This would of course prefigure rapid-shot sequencing today, which can be done with a single lens instead of eight.”

If you are at all inclined towards loving photography, you should take the time to check out this assortment of cameras—“the cameras that changed the game, made it fun, and made it everyone's to play,” according to Prince.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]