Piqabrick update

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A few weeks ago we told you about Piqabrick, a part identification system on Kickstarter. It is now 60% funded with 11 days to go, so there's a good chance that it will reach its funding target.

Over the weekend I was exhibiting my GBCs at the Bricks in Florence Festival in Italy and while there I met up with its creators, Stefano and Claudio, who demonstrated it to me. Having seen it for myself, I can say categorically that it works!

They very kindly gave me the prototype unit they were using for the demonstration so I can test and review it at home, so I will be doing so later this week.

Find out more about how it could save you time identifying parts, particularly printed pieces and minifigs, after the break, and if Piqabrick piques your interest you can back the project on Kickstarter.


Essentially, Piqabrick consists of three parts:

  • A camera module with integrated lights, the 'Piqabrick top', that is designed to sit on top of a cube built from LEGO and plugged into a PC or Mac.
  • A website 'dashboard' through which you operate the camera and receive results
  • A database of LEGO parts images, upon which the system relies.

To use it, you put the part you want to identify under the camera, fire up the website and click a button to take a photo. The image is then sent to 'the cloud' where it'll be compared with those in the database and if there's a match you'll be shown the part number and links to BrickLink and so on.

The company behind the project, Getcoo, has already produced a similar system, Piqapart, for identifying screws and other industrial components so it should know what it's doing. I therefore think there's a good chance that it could actually work.

Of course, it will only be as good as the database of images and as I understand it that is being compiled at the moment by beta testers. In the long term it will effectively be crowd-sourced from the device's users, who will have the ability to add any new parts they encounter.

Anyway, you can show your support for the project on Kickstarter, where a pledge of €111 will get you a Piqabrick top when they ship in February. If the system turns out to be as good as it's claimed it will be, it will be a real time-saver for, for example, BrickLink sellers, so will pay for itself in no time.

There's more info in the press release:

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I am Stefano of GETCOO and I am happy to announce PIQABRICK, our made in Italy product that applies the computer vision technology to the world of LEGO, is on Kickstarter! Piqabrick is the new must-have for any AFOL (Adult Fan Of Lego) and Brick lover to instantly identify any brick code and manage the inventory.

PIQABRICK relies on DART (Direct Acquisition and ReTrieval), Getcoo’s proprietary Artificial Intelligence, already adopted in industry and tourism. PIQABRICK is made of two parts: the PIQABRICK BOX and the web dashboard. The first one consists of a USB camera and LED (to provide the correct illumination) mounted on top of a box made by LEGO bricks.

The box has precise dimensions (16x16 brick units wide and 12 brick units tall), but it is fully customizable by the user with his/hers own bricks (as long the internal dimension are kept, the color of the bricks does not matter). The PIQABRICK BOX is connected to a PC via USB and does not require any installation. To identify a brick, down to its ID and color code, just put it into the box!


The web dashboard controls the camera in the PIQABRICK BOX for the brick identification. Once the brick is identified the dashboard provides the links to the LEGO marketplaces to easily buy/sell the brick and to manage the personal inventory.

With PIQABRICK, Lego lovers can save time in the brick identification and the personal inventory management. The computer vision speeds up the buying/selling activity on the specialized marketplaces. With less time needed for searching, sorting and inventorying, more time to play, build, and have fun!

PIQABRICK:

  • identifies any brick down to the ID and color code
  • speeds up the identification with computer vision
  • identifies minifigs as well
  • suggests similar bricks (by code or color)
  • provides “appear in” functionality (list of sets in which a brick appears)
  • provides “rebrick” functionality (list of sets one can build with the bricks in his/her inventory)


More info:

35 comments on this article

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By in France,

Curious to see your final review and verdict and what you think of who it can be useful for, or what application it can have.

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By in Netherlands,

Although I do not ‘need’ this product, I do feel it is a very interesting and intelligent piece of technology. Very impressive.
I wish the creators the best of luck on their crowdfunding and I shall await the Brickset preview with great interest.

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By in United Kingdom,

When you do the tests, can you check it under real conditions - such as using some clone parts, some fake torsos, etc. and some parts where print has started to wear, plus minifigures where arms and hands have been switched out for others. Not just using standard LEGO parts that should be easy enough to identify.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ It is only as good as the database of parts images and at present it is not complete so real world tests like that might be difficult.

However, Claudio has said in the BrickLink forum that by February, when the item ships, they aim to have 90% of BrickLink's database covered.

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By in United Kingdom,

So it can only do one part at a time? It's going to take me a while to catalogue all the parts from that Millennium Falcon then...

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By in Germany,

^ So you did buy it as a giant partspack with a discount? Nice. Perhaps you can sort the pieces and only scan one of each and fill in a number count for it then.

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By in United Kingdom,

Still got my questions as to how much people will actually use this unless they buy/sell a large number of unsorted parts given your average MOC creator already keeps their parts well organised. Or, how accurate it'll be given the large number of similar style blocks from non-lego and knock off companies.

That and I still believe, despite claims, you'd be able to get the exact same results with a phone app version using the same housing box.

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By in United Kingdom,

The fact that ‘it works’ is always a good starting point!
It’s very clever but I just can’t see the market for it.
“I’m out”, as they say.

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By in United Kingdom,

Part of the pleasure I get from brick sorting is finding what parts come from which sets when I buy someones collection. I'm still sorting 60kg of loose bricks I bought 2 years ago but I'm in no hurry.

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By in Slovenia,

It looks like very promissing. And as told above it will be as good as database of parts. I contacted the team weeks ago what about parts bigger then lightbox and got answer: Only fraction of parts do not fit in and those will not be able to scan.
I do hope 'to big parts' will be in database and if camera mounted on top of DIY box will reckognise parts. Since box is brick built just building bigger box will do? Might work if focus point of camera is not fixed.

Huw, maybe you can test that now?

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By in Italy,

I was at that event too! It was great to see you and shake hands

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By in United Kingdom,

When I read about this I find myself looking forward to the day (probably quite soon) when some one rigs one up with a conveyor belt , sorting mechanism and creates an automatic sorter.

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By in United States,

@giancann, thanks for the link! Amazing technology!

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By in United States,

Nice, but I want a machine that scans a piece and then locates it in my many boxes of bricks.

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By in United States,

After reading the discussion on BrickLink about PIQABRICK, I took the plunge last night and backed it. I have a bunch of unsorted parts, so I can definitely use some help. I like sorting manually, but it's not always the most practical, as demonstrated by my large backlog. I hope they reach their funding goal.

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By in Ireland,

Seems to me to be a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. A phone / table app would seem to have made more sense if there is a market for something like this...

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By in United Kingdom,

I've just supported it too.
I have a lot of loose minifigures that I would like to associate with their sets, but I struggle to identify them manually.
Hopefully, this will save me a lot of time, which will definitely make it worth the money.

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By in Canada,

It's a cool gadget, but I can't think of any real life usage scenario, other than trying it out. Let's say O got a Lego lot, it will take hours to scan it one by one, and for the rare piece every now and then, BL search is pretty good and fast. Am I missing something ?

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By in United States,

I signed up for this as soon as the first article was posted here, really hope the project makes it to production. I plan to use it mostly for minifigure identification, as a scanner should certainly be faster than my failing eyesight and browsing with goatleg or Brickset.

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By in United States,

The press release has many grammatical errors!!!!

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By in United Kingdom,

Bear in mind that English is not their native language so cut them some slack...

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By in United Kingdom,

For me personally, while I think that it's great the way it works and there is no doubting it's a very clever piece of kit, it's not something I could see myself using as I enjoy sorting and looking up parts as I find it very therapeutic and for me it comes as part and parcel of the hobby.
I would like to see the technology supported though as to get to a stage where it would be ultimately beneficial, i.e. large lots and sorting automatically or disassembling a large MOC into its separate elements, it has to start somewhere small so the idea can grow.
I'm old enough to remember when mobile phones had batteries that were 3 times the size of the handset and now the things are smaller and more powerful than my first pc.

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By in United States,

Many people have pointed out that as a sorter the Piqabrick has a somewhat niche application. If the project was only a sorting tool I would agree but after looking through the Kickstarter and specifically at the web dashboard section it appears that there is an integrated inventory feature. This is really the game-changer in my opinion; in theory a collector will eventually be able to manage a comprehensive inventory. While it would take a large time investment up front (as well as the cost of the unit) subsequently adding parts from loose bulk lots or parted-out sets would be one of the easiest options for maintaining collection records.

Of course, if you don't care so much about the collection tracking this is not as much of a breakthrough, so to each their own.

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By in United States,

Does it recognize retired colors and elements?

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By in United States,

I'm very particular about what parts I have in my collection down to the mold type, and sometimes find it frustrating after ordering from bricklink vendors and getting the wrong version of a part when attempting to replace / complete older sets with the correct molds.

Hopefully this system will encourage and enable brick resellers to finally properly inventory their stock down to the mold type and provide buyers with distinct store listings. At the very least it would definitely make it easier for sellers to check their parts for a specific mold type when a buyer inquires about what version of a part they might have on hand.

Some examples would be:
1xN bricks, plates and tiles with solid bottom tubes/pins vs hollow tubes/pins
2x2, 2x3 and 2x4 bricks with thick unreinforced walls vs thinner reinforced walls

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By in United Kingdom,

Having finally watched the video giancann posted, it makes me question it even more seeing the it had problems with part orientation, shadows, and a bunch of other small but niggling issues that'd lead me to question its usefulness.

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By in United States,

I backed this after the first article and hope that is meets the goal and does ship. If it can identify the heads, torsos, legs for those of us that buy lots that contain mismatched or piles of minifig parts this should insanely speed up those identifications. I literally have 2 big storage containers with heads that I just can't find the time to line up and try to search against the ever growing pages of head images on BrickLink.

Also looking forward to see how this does on flat silver vs pearl light gray, browns, pink, etc.

If they can pull it off I certainly agree with some of the other comments about this getting built into a sorting project. There are already some plans out there to use the Lego sensors to do some of this, so this could super charge that.

No matter what I have backed some other projects that were way less useful than this could be and I think they have come up with something that takes advantage of an evolving technology that can be useful as something functional and potentially as a teaching tool for those who want to put something like this into a bigger STEM/Robotics project that could get kids to work and learn the technology while having some Lego fun..

I can only imagine what you might be able to do at some point with this and the Bucket Wheel Excavator, the Liebherr R 9800, some conveyor belts and some plastic bins (that might be something cool for them (or a partner) to try out when they go to CES in Jan.).

Good luck to the team, I hope it gets funded so we can see where this can go.

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By in Sweden,

I would recommend to convert this software to a smartphone app so you don’t need a computer and USB.

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By in Germany,

@Dude45 they have already looked into it and found that the variance between different phone cameras is too large for the algorithm used to work efficiently.

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By in Germany,

@Dude45: give it some time. I am sure it will get there eventually, but they had to start somewhere manageable.

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By in United States,

While the concept is cool, I can find where 99% of parts come from in under 5 minutes with bricklink. Good resource for people new to LEGO, but the price is more on the "I already know and buy a lot of LEGO" tag. A cool gimmick, I wish 'em luck!

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By in United Kingdom,

@Galaxy12_Import

I think until we see what they mean by using the word inventory you should take anything in that area with a bit of scepticism. It could well be that they just mean it is quicker for you to add the previously unknown part to your current inventory system if you use their device to identify it.

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By in Sweden,

I supported it. I have an entire box of minifigures that I have been avoiding. Would be awesome to get them together properly. and awesome if it can help as well as promised with colors. (is this light pink? Bright pink? Eh? Magenta or purple.)

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By in Germany,

I would only really need this to identify minifigs and partial minifigs. Those are sometimes really annoying to match with a set.

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