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Japan Toys

"Universal Jigsaw Puzzle" Hits Stores In Japan 241

Riktov writes "I came across this at a Tokyo toy store last week, and it's one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. Jigazo Puzzle is a jigsaw puzzle, but you can make anything with it. It has just 300 pieces which are all just varying shades of a single color, though a few have gradations across the piece; i.e., each piece is a generic pixel. Out of the box, you can make Mona Lisa, JFK, etc, arranging it according to symbols printed on the reverse side. But here's the amazing thing: take a photo (for example, of yourself) with a cell-phone, e-mail it to the company, and they will send you back a pattern that will recreate that photo. This article is in Japanese, but as they say, a few pictures are worth a million words. And 300 pixels are worth an infinite number of pictures."
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"Universal Jigsaw Puzzle" Hits Stores In Japan

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  • The puzzle version of ascii art?
    • by Tynin ( 634655 )
      No, it is the puzzle version of Post-It art.
  • infinite? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by token_username ( 1415329 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:06PM (#30396088)
    More like 300! I'd say.
    • Re:infinite? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:23PM (#30396334) Homepage
      Not necessarily. There are 300! sequences of the pieces, but you also need to allow for a few more variables:
      • Rotation of pieces that are non-uniform in colour
      • Multiple arrangements - 15x20, 10x30, images etc.
      • Not using all the pieces - a 17x17 image for instance
      • Combining multiple sets of the same colour
      • Combining multiple sets of different colours

      OK, the last two are technically cheating, and all but the first option would possibly require custom code since all the example images appear to be 15x20 portraits, but a suitable algorithm probably wouldn't be that hard to figure out. I saw this on Firehose last night and worked out a few likely routines this morning, so I'd expect some custom FL/OSS code (and cheap Chinese manufactured knock-offs) to be available in fairly short order. After that the race will be on to create the largest most impressive image before the fad inevitably passes.

      • Re:infinite? (Score:5, Informative)

        by nneonneo ( 911150 ) <spam_hole AT shaw DOT ca> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:39PM (#30396502) Homepage

        Assuming all pieces are used, and that none of the pieces are symmetric or identical (that is, all pieces are different, and each rotation is different), then the actual number of possible images comes out to:


        where 9 is for the number of possible rectangles (1x300 up to 15x20), 4^300 accounts for the rotations of each piece, and 300! accounts for their arrangement.

        The result, according to Python, works out to around 1.143*10^796, which is large, but not infinite.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Who says you have to use all the pieces? You'd also need include all the other sizes that one could produce with few pieces (and then the selection of that subset of pieces...
          • If we still assume rectangular layouts, this is still not too hard to do. We simply sum d(n)*(4^n)*(n!)/2 for each n from 1 to 300, where d(n) is the number of divisors of n.

            Dividing by 2 eliminates the upside-down variant of each image, since we don't care about the orientation of the whole image (however, we do distinguish the horizontal and vertical orientations).

            The result of the full summation, again according to Python, is 1.1432*10^796, which, comparing with the previous result of 1.14299*10^796, is

        • by ChrisCampbell47 ( 181542 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:36PM (#30398152)

          The result, according to Python, works out to around 1.143*10^796, which is large, but not infinite.

          37 minutes.

          As I read "infinite" in the summary, I thought "OK, let's see how long it takes for one of these yahoos to calculate how many combinations there really are", since it is of course not infinite. The post went up at 6:02pm, and the parent of this post went up at 6:39pm. Congratulations :)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      300! (factorial) ~= 3.06 x 10^614

      That's how many combinations there are, if each piece is unique and is used in the same 15x20 grid each time.

      To put that in perspective, there are only about 10^80 atoms in the universe. You would need 2042 bits to represent that number in binary.

      So yeah. For all intents and purposes, that's limitless.

    • More like 300! I'd say.

      Thats pretty damn close [].

    • 300! combinations at 300x1
      300! combinations at 150x2
      300! combinations at 100x3

    • by rune.w ( 720113 )

      You could probably get more than that if you rotate 90 degrees on the same spot those pixels that have a color gradient.

  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by Narpak ( 961733 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:07PM (#30396104)
    Now tell me the pattern for creating an image of unspeakable evil; like the Great Cthulhu.
    Cthulhu fhtagn! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ia! Ia! Ia! The sleeper awakens!
    • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Informative)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:23PM (#30396330) Journal
      Impossible. Anyone who had seen the image would be a gibbering heap of insanity, and unable to tell you the pattern. At best you could hope to get enough clues to figure out the pattern yourself... but if you assembled it, you'd either off yourself or also turn into a quivering mass of human flesh.

      The key here is to get someone else to assemble the image... you'd find a likely mark (some kind of paranormal investigator, for instance) and then mislead him into thinking the image he's assembling will *stop* the summoning of Cthulhu. Drop enough clues in the right places, use decoys to mislead him of your true intentions, let him be an ignorant pawn in your great game. With luck and skill, you can get him to do the dirty work for you. And the irony of him contributing to the Great Awakening by striving against it is quite delicious.

      At least, that's the way I'd do it. Your way is too direct, and not worthy of true evil genius.
      • by Enleth ( 947766 )

        You know a CoC game master when you see him.

        However, you need some more experience to be able to truly become the one behind all the evil geniuses the investigators try to stop.

        In this case, one of the investigators should become a shizophreniac due to past mental strain and suffer from terrible nightmares and symptoms of sleep deprivation even though he goes to sleep each night (or so he thinks), and at the very end it should be revealed (that is, if the other investigators are still alive and doing well e

      • by Boronx ( 228853 )

        All through '43, we had separate puzzlers each working on a single piece, for safety. One time, a puzzler saw the piece of another and had to be hospitalized for three weeks.

        • All through '43, we had separate puzzlers each working on a single piece, for safety. One time, a puzzler saw the piece of another and had to be hospitalized for three weeks.

          What did the Germans come up with? I bet it was so well documented that it couldn't send anybody mad.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SEWilco ( 27983 )

            What did the Germans come up with? I bet it was so well documented that it couldn't send anybody mad.

            We couldn't find their puzzle among the puzzle pieces of Berlin. We did find the documentation, but unfortunately that's enough to drive men mad also.

    • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

      by CptPicard ( 680154 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:39PM (#30396506)

      You must be new here, it should be obvious. Send the company a picture of goatse, and have your pattern...

  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:08PM (#30396140) Homepage Journal

    And 300 pixels are worth 3.060575122 * 10^614 pictures

    Fixed that for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And 300 pixels are worth 3.060575122 * 10^614 pictures

      Most of which will resemble little more than random noise and have no value.

    • And 300 pixels are worth 3.060575122 * 10^614 pictures

      I'd consider that a sufficiently small value of infinite.

    • by node 3 ( 115640 )

      And 300 pixels are worth 3.060575122 * 10^614 pictures

      Fixed that for you.

      Actually, your value is just an approximation (ignoring the rotation issue others have already brought up).

      In terms of even an exceptionally long-lived human's lifetime, your value is equivalent to infinite.

    • by Zalbik ( 308903 )

      And 300 pixels are worth 3.060575122 * 10^614 pictures

      Fixed that for you.

      But many* of those pictures are quite rude, as evidenced by the puzzle I'm just completing...OMG...what are you doing to that poor kitten?!?!?

      * many as in a large number as opposed to a large percentage.

    • which we can encode in 2042 bits, or 64 words (assuming 32 bit word size.)

      (Adjust answer as needed to account for rotations, duplicate pixels etc etc.)

  • JPEG (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quietust ( 205670 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:09PM (#30396144) Homepage
    Seems remarkably similar to how JPEG compression works. Not surprisingly, the resulting pictures look a lot like overcompressed JPEGs.
    • Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Also, that it would be interesting to actually create a jpeg puzzle (monochrome, of course), with higher-order blocks than just simple gradients. Also, what would be the best distribution (vocabulary if you will) of blocks to fit certain kinds of pictures.

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      Rats, you beat me to it, but yeah, that's exactly what I thought when I saw their pics. Wikipedia has a good intro to how JPEG compression works. [] Basically, images are cut into 8 pixel by 8 pixel squares, each of which is a kind of gradient, and when you look at all these blocks together, it looks like a real image--kind of like how you can take a bunch of 1-inch line segments, arrange them end-to-end into a shape, and from a few feet away it looks like smooth curves.

  • by Bourdain ( 683477 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:13PM (#30396196)

    a few pictures are worth a million words

    Especially when the accompanying text is in Japanese and I can't read it

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ELitwin ( 1631305 )
      Why is this modded funny? The full quote is "This article is in Japanese, but as they say, a few pictures are worth a million words." Am I missing something?
  • Not quite. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:14PM (#30396232)

    It appears to be monochromatic and it also used nearest-approximation algorithms... Which means that the extra pieces are inserted as "random noise" once the general shapes are mapped out. Clever, but... low resolution.

    • I suppose if you tweaked the gamma and contrast enough you could make anything work without inserting "random noise"...
    • Re:Not quite. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kazoo the Clown ( 644526 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:27PM (#30396386)
      It essentially has a fixed histogram. I wonder what you'd get back from them if you sent them an image specifically designed to be hard to fit into that histogram...
      • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:00PM (#30396730)

        It essentially has a fixed histogram. I wonder what you'd get back from them if you sent them an image specifically designed to be hard to fit into that histogram...

        A squad comprised of a Ninja, a gradeschool girl with magical superpowers, a vampire, and a giant robot. On your doorstep. With a note that politely says, "Do not taunt happy fun puzzle."

      • by rm999 ( 775449 )

        If the histogram is wider (higher variance) than your image, than they can "stretch" your picture out by upping the contrast. If it is narrower (less variance), than the noise approach is probably the best solution.

        If your image has a totally different shape (e.g. a few white patches on a black background), find a new image :P

        • If your image has a totally different shape (e.g. a few white patches on a black background), find a new image :P

          Even then, you'd probably get something basically recognizable -- I'd imagine the error diffusion just puts a lot of noise in a black area that's too big. Heck, it may even run an unsharp mask over the image to exaggerate details when the predicted output noise reaches a certain threshold.

          I bet the algorithms for this bear a number of similarities to photomosaic systems as they're both working wi

    • Simply increase the puzzle size, a small tweak to the algorithm (unless it accomodates) and the resolution is fine once again

    • There's different ways you could match the pieces to a given photo.

      One way would simply to map from the levels curve (pixel brightness vs # pixels plot) of the "puzzle" pieces to the levels curve of your photo. i.e divide the area under your photo's levels curve into 300 squares and assign them in black-to-white order to pieces from the "puzzle" also sorted in black to white order. This would work best if the levels curve of your photo is not totally lopsided compared to the curve of the pieces.

      Another way,

  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by esocid ( 946821 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:15PM (#30396236) Journal
    You can even make a 404 error out of it!
  • Is this really any different than using Legos to make pixel art?
    • Yes and No. If I assume you mean with a monochrome scale of pieces, it is still different, because each piece is not simply 1 colour. Each puzzle piece has a different pattern and shades to it. (Though some varying very very little).

      Unless you meant Lego pieces with different patterns and shades on it, then yes it would be the same.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Riktov ( 632 )

      What makes this different from Legos, pixelblocks, ASCII art, or even a JPEG image, is that the selection of pixels/pieces is predetermined, limited, and they must all be used to make the image. For all those other forms you're allowed to pick the closest color value for each pixel.

      With this puzzle, supposing you did it manually, scanning row by row, and picking the best-fitting piece for each pixel. It'll look great at first, but soon you'll be running out of good matches and having to choose less and less

  • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    I would seem that the word "anything" to you means "any monochromatic, low-resolution image".
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:43PM (#30396560)
    but you can make anything with it. That's like saying you can convert any picture to a 15 by 20 pixel JPEG; technically you can, but the usually the result isn't worth looking at. That said, I'm sure a lot of people will send in pr0n to convert into patterns, just to see what it looks like in ultra-low resolution monochrome.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Of course you can. As an example I've changed my signature to your portrait.
    • This is going to sound like I have way too much time on my hands. Which was true till I got into even more twisted uses of my time.
      I can testify that there is a market for low res mono-chromatic pr0n. My website is dedicated to it. While ASCII art pr0n doesn't pay that much it has opened the door to paying gigs that have netted me thousands of dollars in commissions. Rule 34 for fun and profit.

  • I think it would be (more) interesting if you could also order a set where the pieces are whatever size you want, ..., so that if you want to *sorta* recreate the mona lisa, but on a wall surface that's 4 feet wide by 5 feet tall; those (larger) pieces will be much easier to apply/fix to a wall, than a bunch of printed pages of paper.

  • wasgij puzzle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:45PM (#30396582) Homepage
    This is the opposite of a jigsaw puzzle, so I call it a wasgij puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles only fit one way and you use the picture to aid you in fitting the pieces. This wasgij puzzle fit any way you want and you fit them together to form the picture you desire.
    • Where does one find a wasgij for cutting out one such puzzle?

    • Except that you are sent a key, which only fit one way to form the photo you want.

      Basically, the puzzle isn't the pieces, those are universal. The puzzle is the pattern that you get sent.

  • I liked these better when they were called PixelBlocks [].

    I have a FF1 Fighter and a DQ1 Slime on my desk. :)

    • The difference is that these blocks have gradients, so there's a computational optimization aspect to it. Given a set of similar but gradient, how do you arrange and orient them to best reproduce an image? The gradient aspect leads to a better quality image than a simple grid of pixels.

  • Not colorblind friendly for sure! One box of blank pieces please!
  • I love the name Jigazo Puzzle. It sounds like a Japanese guy saying "jigsaw" but with a thick Japanese accent.
  • Lego Mosaic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:39PM (#30397092)

    Seems an awful lot like the Lego mosaics that people make. Lego also did a mosaic product for a while where you could upload an image and they would send you parts and instructions for making the image with 1x1 Lego plates.

    I believe there is even software now to make the 'maps' yourself, much like cross-stitch, etc.

  • Given that the pieces tile exactly as if they were squares, I'm not that impressed.

    I'm much more impressed by what Ken Knowlton manages to do with seashells. []

  • Or does the product sound like Mickey Rooney's character in Breakfast at Tiffany's saying "Jigsaw Puzzle".

    It's a "jigazo puzzle".

  • I would like to buy one! I think it's unique and cool. I probably would buy a couple for friends. Unfortunately, i coul not get babel fish to translate for an address. :-(

    • Google Translate (|en| ) seems to work well enough
      (except for the text embedded in images). The price is 1890 Y ; but as far as I can
      determine they don't ship outside Japan.

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:59AM (#30399392)

    There are no differing nipples and holes anymore, so you can’t fail anymore. Which means that you can put it together in a wrong way without noticing. Oh, wait, there is a list of how to put it together, killing the whole point of putting a puzzle together.

    I don’t think that that way it will have any chances, after this little hype is over.

  • Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:32AM (#30401436) Homepage Journal

    FWIW it says take a photo with your cell phone, send it in and the response arrives.
    They have variations in sepia, wine red, midnight blue, and a puzzle game -- but all are sold out.

    By the way JIGAZO actually is how you read the three character name, which means "your own image" or maybe "self portrait image".

    Here is what the separate white panel looks like:
    here []

    And here is a blog, showing the process: "I made the Jigazo puzzle!" []
    I'm not going to translate it entirely, but he says the pieces are nice and thick, and well formed. Also there is a guide image on the back of each piece and also, a light version of it is shown on the front of the piece as well so it's easy to understand.
    It comes out looking quite good, the key is to look at it as if looking far away, with squinty eyes. ;)
    It took him 90 minutes to make his first one, then the second time he got faster.


    Use the 300 pieces in the box and you can make anybody's face.
    First in the World, a jigsaw puzzle that can do your face!
    Jigazo Puzzle

    Can you believe it?!
    All the sample images shown here were made with the same 300 pieces.
    In order to make your own face...
    When you send a photo by cell phone email a response image will be sent back immediately.
    Just put the pieces together the way it shows and voila!

    By repositioning the same 300 pieces you can make images as varied as these!
    1. Send your image to the email address printed in the included instruction manual
    2. A response image with the answer arrives in your cell phone
    3. When you line up the 300 pieces according to that, then your face is complete. You can use anyone's face!

    (small print)
    Sending your photo, and receiving the response image will incur packet communications charges according to your cell phone service provider's contract.
    If you are going to be using it repeatedly, we recommend you use your service provider's fixed price unlimited packet plan.
    Note that the creation of the response image by our company is without cost no matter how many times you use it.

    Set contents
    300 piece puzzle. Color of pieces differs depending on the set type.
    Piece set-up tray
    Starch adhesive and applicator spatula (or something like that)
    Manual. Includes instruction images for the Mona Lisa, Girl with Pearl Earrings, Natsume Soseki (the author []), Kennedy (JFK), President Obama, Beethoven's face. You can immediately start playing with these faces without using a cell phone.

    Other things you need:
    A cell phone with camera functionality, from NTT DoCoMo, AU, Softbank Mobile (Disney Mobile and iPhone also included).
    * When displaying your finished puzzle, please use separately sold 300 piece (white) panel specially for JIGAZO puzzles.

    Price is 1890 yen, a bit over 20 bucks.


    Q1. When I send in a portrait photo with my cell phone, do you mail me back a finished puzzle?
    A. No, that is incorrect. Your face is created only out of the 300 pieces in the box.

    Q2. How do you do that?
    A. There are 300 pieces in the box with slightly different tones.A program finds the tones closest to those of your face and sends back to your cell phone a response image specially for your face.

    Q3. How quickly does the response image get sent back?
    A. It depends on the state of the communications network, but in about 10 seconds it should be sent back and then you can immediately start playing.

    Q4. How do you put the puzzle together?
    A. Each of the pieces has a hint image on it, so you position the pieces as shown by the response animation. Enjoy watching your face gradually start to appear.

    Q5. Can I only put the pieces together once?
    A. No, you can redo it any number of times, and make anyone's face.You can pl

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982