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.

 

 

 

 

Imaging Changes Everything

 

 

acrylic-paints-174638_960_720.jpgThe tools we use to see the world change the kind of world we can see. In the latter half of the 19th century, two technological advances changed the world of imaging forever. First, the development of film photography, allowing more detail to be captured than had been possible with other imaging methods. Secondly, the development of pre-mixed artists’ paint in tubes, which allowed painters to leave their studios and paint what they saw in the world, instead of relying on sketches and models. The photographers began to focus on capturing the realities of the physical world in a way that paint never could, and the painters, through the Impressionist and Expressionist movements, began to focus on the experience of the world, in a way that photography could not capture.

 

agfa-682920_960_720.jpgThroughout the 20th century, photography became cheaper and more portable; more and more people were able to afford cameras and film, which led to greater experimentation with film. Films arrived, first the silent films, then “talkies,” and finally films with full color and sound, even experimental 3D effects.

 

selfie-465563_960_720And then, at the beginning of the 21st century, the digital revolution happened. Digital cameras were ubiquitous, and constantly improving in quality and size. When smartphones became de rigueur, most people had digital photography–in previous inaccessible quality–in their hands at all times. Selfie culture rose, as did the live-streaming of dramatic events, such as the rescue of the passengers aboard the famous plane that went down in the Hudson River. No matter event is happening, no matter where in the world, someone is covering it with the digital camera in their phone. That is what today’s world looks like.

 

The world of numismatics is not exempt from this story. As photography has improved, so have coin catalogs: instead of relying on descriptions of coins or artists’ depictions, collectors have photographs. On eBay, most prospective collectors can zoom in on any given coin in high detail. Purchases are more informed than ever. But something has been lacking. If a collector knew what coin she had, she could get a value on it. But what if she did not know? What if a treasure was sitting in her pocket change? Of course, there were occasional stories about such finds. Even this year, an extremely valuable coin turned up in a child’s pirate treasure playset. But this only happened when the coins chanced to make their way to experts.

 

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There is no longer a need to rely on that chance. We’ve taken the next step, and paired digital imaging with machine learning. Our new Machine (read more about it here) can correctly identify and grade up to three coins a second…and we can put the power of that Machine on your phone. Our new app, Lookzee, is in development and has already identified many valuable coins simply by taking photos of unsorted coins from our stock. Right now, the image library is focused on wheat cents, though we will be growing from there, as we evaluate the needs of the numismatic community. Our goal is organic growth that collectors actually want and will use.

 

 

 

 

 

We are currently seeking testers for Lookzee: if you’d like to help us test the app before it is released to the public, please get in touch with us at social@lookzee.com.

Friday Odds and Ends for July 15

 

A 91-year-old woman filled in a crossword puzzle at a museum. The problem? The “puzzle” was part of an art display at the museum.

 

 

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Thomas Edison was one of the first technology superstars; when Electrical Experimenter magazine ran this photo of his hands in 1919, the caption read in part: “IF THE WORLD WERE CALLED UPON TO MAKE AN INVENTORY OF WHAT MR. EDISON’S HANDS ACTUALLY WROGHT IN ENRICHING THIS PLANET, THERE WOULD NOT BE GOLD ENOUGH TO PAY HIM.”

 

 

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The Machin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is the most reproduced artwork of all time, and can be seen on stamps all across the world. The Machin portrait is 50 years old this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Two young adults playing the new Pokémon GO game managed to save a house and the life of a beloved dog.

 

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Need a little cuteness after a rough week? Read up on ducklings: science says they’re both cute AND intelligent!

 

Friday Odds and Ends, June 10

New technology reveals machine instructions from 2100 years ago, revealing instructions and philosophy.

 

 

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What do you know about African stamps? Check out this great post about the stamps of Basutoland.

 

 

 

 

Are you a custodian of your coins, or an end consumer? Great thoughts on a tricky topic.

 

 

slimVirtual monsters make it into the real world, via highly anticipated new game, Pokemon Go.

 

 

 

 

When coin collecting feels like walking on ice.

 

 

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NASA’s JUNO spacecraft is set to enter Jupiter orbit next month.