Innovation Starts Small

 

 

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Have you seen this meme floating around the internet? Some of the most revolutionary companies had the most quiet, ordinary beginnings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

unnamed-3The future doesn’t always announce itself with fanfare. The first telephone transmission was made in an old family home in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Tech companies that revolutionized the late 20th and early 21st centuries started out in garages in unassuming suburban neighborhoods. And an unmarked warehouse a few miles south of the Canadian border in Washington holds a machine that is already changing the game for imaging and sorting.

 

 

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Capable of sorting over 80,000 coins in the course of an average workday (for more details on the machine’s capabilities, please click here), this machine uses computer vision and machine learning to quickly “see” and grade coins, sorting them according to the specifications set by the user. We can rapidly sort by date, mint mark, grade, value, and more, faster and more accurately than hand-sorting allows; the machine has sorted 2 million numismatic coins in 2 weeks. We may not be the most polished coin company in the world, but we’re agile and passionate, and excited to share our knowledge.

 

 

But it doesn’t stop with coins. We started there, because it was easier to teach a computer to see something that we ourselves know thoroughly. But a computer can be taught to see anything, even to make aesthetic judgments. Our technology has applications not only for sorting and identifying physical objects, but for improving accessibility for the disabled, creating a digital “fingerprint” for individual coins, preventing theft and fraud, and more.

 

Not every new invention is a game-changer, and not every game-changer comes from an established name or a well-known brand. Innovation often starts in a simple warehouse.

 

 

 

 

Who Makes Scented Postage Stamps?: The Stamps of Bhutan

There are some odd postage stamps out there – but the source of the weirdest, most interesting stamps is probably Bhutan, a country in South Asia.

The country had no established mail system before 1955. Mail would simply be sent through mail runners or passing travelers.

But in the 1950s Bert Kerr Todd, an American, visited Bhutan a number of times with his family. Eventually he made friends with the king, and he suggested stamps as a method of growing the country’s economic welfare.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Bhutan executed many “firsts” of philately. Among these include:

Bhutan scented stamps.

Bhutan scented stamps.

  • The first scented stamps, showing flowers and smelling like roses
Bhutan 3D stamps.

Bhutan 3D stamps.

  • The first 3D stamps, using lenticular printing to show 3D views of animals, plants and more
Bhutan steel postage stamps.

Bhutan steel postage stamps.

  • The first steel and silk stamps
Bhutan working record stamp.

Bhutan working record stamp.

  • The first working record stamps, which actually work on record players and play Bhutan’s national anthem, folk songs, or a short history of the country.

No country has been as innovative as Bhutan when it comes to stamps, which is especially impressive considering Bhutan’s disconnect from the rest of the world — the isolated country legalized TV in 1999, the last country to do so.

Which of these stamps is your favorite?