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There’s a Housing Crisis Looming in Final Fantasy XIV

A new feature in this massive online game that promises a personal home for every player might turn out to be a housing nightmare.

There are worse things to worry about in Final Fantasy than where your character sleeps. Leveling up, obtaining materia, battling Good King Moggle Mox XII: These things take time and energy. Still, establishing your player’s quest pad is a nontrivial part of the gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the latest installment in the epic RPG series. Some players even see it as one of the best parts of the game.

All that could be changing. With a new patch that developers plan to introduce any day now, in-game housing could come to look more like the IRL quest so many of us are struggling to complete. Almost a year into the launch of the FFXIV ARR universe, a housing crunch that game-makers have mostly worked to avoid might be inevitable. 

Back in December, Square Enix advanced patch 2.1, which in addition to adding new dungeons and other features begot the game’s Player Housing system. Whatever the roughly 2 million players of this massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORP) were doing before, as of this patch, they could cohabitate.

Lovely, low-density, single-family housing in Lavender Beds. (Square Enix)

Right now, in-game housing revolves around three residential districts: The Mist, The Goblet, and Lavender Beds. Each one corresponds to one of the game’s three main regions. The Mist, for example, is a growing neighborhood in Limsa Lominsa—you know, the thalassocratic city-state on the coast of the island of La Noscea, just off the Rhotano Sea. 

Players who are members of Free Companies of a certain size can build a hall in the residential district of their choosing. Some of the steps sound beyond boring: First you need to obtain a Land Acquisition entitlement, then you need to buy the land, then you need to buy a Housing Permit in order to proceed with construction, and on and on—stab me with a mythril dagger, already. (All the while, you are presumably trying to develop your character class and be supportive of the other members of your Free Company. Can a White Mage ever have it all?)

Limsa Lominsa, as seen from the exurbs (Square Enix)

For some players, the housing system is where FFXIV ARR takes off. Although owning a hall is critical to all sorts of Free Company endeavors—from raising chocobos (in a stable, of course) to building an airship (that’s what the crafting workshop is for, obviously)—the draw is the interior customization, which is enough to rival The Sims.

Lusting after a Morbol chandelier? There’s a recipe for making one. Torn between glade classical windows and riviera oblong windows? You are not alone. While it isn’t critical to defeating Bahamut, building a hall leads nesting. The housing system in FFXIV ARR has spawned whole forums devoted to showing off private-chamber designs.

So far, the developers have been careful to safeguard the game’s housing system against speculators. Buying land through real-money trading is prohibited, meaning you can’t use dollars to buy gil that you plan to use to buy land or an estate hall. (Not that you can’t buy gil: The Internet is chock-a-block with exchange sites where you can trade in fictional currencies.) Free Companies who buy land but don’t develop it will see its value fall by a set devaluation timer—a bit like a city that taxes an owner for a vacancy. 

The developers introduced gardening to the game with patch 2.2. Personal rooms came to the game with patch 2.3, allowing for individual chambers for each member of a Free Company. With the highly anticipated patch 2.38, players have access to personal housing. 

A mixed-use development in Ul-Dah. (Square Enix)

In discussion forums, players worry that the new zoning system may cause Free Companies to fight over the rights to buy land. Or else that personal housing will be put out of reach for any player who doesn’t devote his or her whole life to acquiring gil. Some players are complaining about how hard it is to acquire land as it is. “We saved like everyone else and estimated within a week of a new ward we would be able to afford the small plot of our dreams,” posted one BroodingFicus. “It’s now a land race, not an achievable goal one can get through hard work.”

Players estimating what true single-avatar housing will cost them are guessing anywhere from 800,000 gil to several million for a small house. I’m with Yuki_Tokita, who pegs a private home closer to 100 million gil. “Obviously the prices should be extremely high because it has to be something that can only be enjoyed by the elite few who know how to work the market and have a [Free Company] that can farm for rare loot on a daily basis.”

In other words: An entire universe is about to switch from a zoning model dominated by multifamily housing to one characterized by single-family housing affordably only for the extremely wealthy. I’m not a gamer, and bowed out of Final Fantasy many roman numeral ago. But if it’s turning into a saga over exclusionary zoning? Hand me my gunblade.

SCiO: Your Sixth Sense. A Pocket Molecular Sensor For All !

Meet SCiO. It is the world’s first affordable molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand. SCiO is a tiny spectrometer and allows you to get instant relevant information about the chemical make-up of just about anything around you, sent directly to your pokedex.

SuperShoes - tickling shoes that facilitate urban rediscovery

Today we immerse in our digital lives through smartphones - we use google maps to navigate to the right location, yelp to find the right restaurant and so on. We don’t get lost anymore, we don’t wander, wonder and discover. Acts of random serendipity through walking brings us back to our innate nature as explorers, walking is meditating.

SuperShoes are a pair of flexible inner soles that you can flex, twist and put in any of your shoes to make them a supershoe. Each of these soles have three vibrotactile motors that tickle your toes, a capacitive pad that recognizes your touch and serves as an input modality. Onboard micro controller, low-power bluetooth and battery supplement the interface. The soles talk to the pokedex to use its location and data services. Users register onto ShoeCentral - once - where they populate their likes and dislikes (food, people, shopping, weather, places, hobbies, activities, interests etc) and social preferences. The ShoeCentral keeps learning about user preferences as you use the SuperShoes to go around.

The shoes are based on a tickling interface - left toe tickles - turn left, right toe tickles - turn right, no tickle - keep going, both tickle repeatedly - reached destination, both tickle once - recommendation, both tickle twice - reminder.

The shoes perform varying functions -

Map - The shoes take you to your destination by tickling. You input your destination once on the accompanying pokedex app. No more staring at the screen, rather immerse in your surroundings.

Tour guide - Since the shoes know your likes and dislikes, they recommend places of interest nearby. You could look at the pokedex app to know the suggestion, but ideally - the user follows the tickle to reach the suggested place as a surprise. Say you like Sushi and the shoes know this, the shoes know that you are on 33rd St and 7th Avenue, the shoes tickle you to take you to the Sushi place nearby which is highly recommended online. You can pause the suggestion by tapping on the toes to ignore it.

Reminders - Most of our to-do lists are on the pokedex or on the computer, we don’t constantly monitor these lists throughout the day. The shoes know your tasks, and they tickle you twice to remind you when you are close to the place. Say you had to pick up wine before reaching home, as you approach close to the wine store, the shoes tickle you - and as you look around - you see the wine store and you remember your task.

Break time - We don’t take breaks, we run from one place to the other. The shoes have access to your calendar and know if you have a free slot in the day, they plan a short route for you that starts and ends at your current location. So you can go out and take a break - walk without worrying where you are going - while being assured that you’d reach back at your origin in time.

Getting lost - Given the design of cities and the cross streets, there are infinite number of ways to go from one place to the other. However, we always take the same route from our work to home and vice versa. Depending on how much time you have at hand, the shoes suggest a new route for you everyday so that you can discover, explore more and not worry about getting lost.



We recently designed some icons to represent topics that will most likely become increasingly interesting in the next few years. 

Some of them are tongue in cheek (like the standford bunnies in the 3D replication icon), some are more critical (like the synthetic biology spidergoat). They are meant to provoke different associations to start discussions about the future.

We would like to create some more. Suggestions welcome via mail, twitter or facebook

Get the Icons at the The Noun Project

The icons en detail:

  • Slime Mold Computing Slime mold can not only determine the shortest path through a maze or model optimal railway systems. Scientists from the University of the West of England discovered that Physarum polycephalum slime molds can act as memristors. This means they could be used to create more efficient computer memory. [read more
  • Wearables For some futurists wearables are already half over, soon to be replaced by ingestibles. We think wearables will become interesting in ways we now can´t even imagine. [read more
  • Meat Printing Humans eat about 240 billion kilograms of meat each year. The demand for animal protein has resulted in environmental degradation, cruelty to livestock, and the spread of dangerous diseases. Thiel Foundation just funded Modern Meadow, a company that wants to solve this problem with a new method to print meat with a 3D printer. Will it taste better or worse than Tofurkey? [read more]
  • Autonomous Car The future of mobility. If the politicians don´t f*ck it up… [read more
  • Graphene The infamous new Wondermaterial almost every big company is dreaming of. The EU just threw a Billion Bucks at research projects dealing with graphene. Let´s keep our fingers crossed… [read more
  • Exoskeleton Known from Science Fiction since more than a century, powered exoskeletons could become relevant in many areas apart from human warfare or for the rehabilitation afterwards. [read more]
  • 3D-Replication While everybody is already fed up with the ubiquitous talk about 3D, we think with 3D scanners becoming affordable 3D replication is going to explode. Think of Copyshops for Objects with the possibility to remix and mash! (Rabbits as a symbol for fast replication? Yeah, we know… but at least it´s the Stanford Bunny.) [read more
  • Encrypted eMail Thanks to the NSA, the eMail Icon needs an upgrade. And don´t forget to update your eMail to encrypted eMail, too… [read more
  • Brain Machine Interface Especially interesting in Combination with other Developments on the Horizon, e.g. Exosceletons. The next logical Step after we all have been assimilated with Google Glass… [read more
  • Synthetic Biology Synthetic Biology is on the rise. Cabbage has been grown with scorpion venom. Mice have been bred to chirp like birds. Glow-in-the-dark kitties and pigs are real. And, naturally, scientists created a goat-spider hybrid to produce synthetic silk. [read more

(via whisperoftheshot)

A Guide to Bitcoin’s Legality In Different Countries Around the World

  • Alderney (Channel Islands): Even though it’s been heralded as the possible first Bitcoin Isle, there’s no official government stance. “However, journalists have reportedly obtained documents indicating that Alderney is trying to take the lead and become the central hub for the bitcoin, by minting and issuing physical bitcoins and creating an international center with a bitcoin storage vault service that complies with anti-money laundering rules.”
  • Argentina: Bitcoin “may be considered money but not legal currency… Although bitcoins are not specifically regulated, they are increasingly being used in Argentina.”
  • Australia: The Ossies are keeping their eye on Bitcoin, and plan to tax it, so those dealing in it down under should be keeping good records. And they’ve seen Bitcoin’s dark side: “In October 2013, an Australian Bitcoin bank was hacked, resulting in the theft of over US$1 million of the currency.”
  • Belgium: They are waffling when it comes to creating regulation. “The Minister of Finance indicated that government intervention with regard to the Bitcoin system does not appear necessary at the present time.”
  • Brazil: It may not be ready for the World Cup, but it is ready for Bitcoin. It passed a law in October 2013 specifically for electronic currencies.
  • Canada: The Great White North famously welcomed the first Bitcoin ATM last year, in part because those who own it don’t have to worry about complicated laws around Bitcoin. Canada doesn’t consider Bitcoin to be legal tender, and is as interested in regulating it as it is Monopoly money… at least for now. People using it for transactions need to pay tax as they would for bartering or speculative purchases. Unlike in the U.S., Canada’s financial regulator doesn’t regard Bitcoin exchanges as money services businesses, meaning they don’t need to register with it or flag suspicious transactions.
  • Chile: There’s no frenzy here yet, though Ayn Rand expats have invaded. “Interest in acquiring bitcoins is slowly growing. However, because there is no regulation on the use of bitcoins, transactions are informal in nature and mainly conducted among friends. In 2013, a group of American Libertarians founded a self-sustaining organic farming community called Galt’s Gulch Chile in central Chile with an economy based on bitcoins.”
  • China: It quelched the bidding fury around Bitcoin in December 2013 declaring that “bitcoin is not a currency and should not be circulated and used in the market as a currency.” While people there are free to buy and sell it, financial institutions have been warned away.
  • Croatia: “Bitcoin is not legal tender in Croatia but can be legally used.” Regulation could be coming in the future.
  • Cyprus: The country’s financial policies early last year sent scared investors into digital currency, making many take notice of Bitcoin for the first time. Its bank issued a statement on bitcoins in December, stating that “it considers the use of any kind of virtual money as particularly dangerous, given that it is not under any regulatory system and its operation is unchecked.” Cypriots can use it safely by getting a university education with it.
  • Denmark: No love for bitcoin. “Denmark’s Finanstilsynet (Financial Supervisory Authority) has issued a statement rejecting the bitcoin as a currency and stating that it will not regulate bitcoin use.”
  • Estonia: No official stance, but “because of its growing popularity and increasing use by the country’s population, the Bank of Estonia (the nation’s central bank) monitors financial arrangements that use Bitcoin. According to Google’s search statistics, Estonia is the country with the second largest number of Internet searches for the term “Bitcoin”; Russia has the most such searches.” Its central bank recently warned that Bitcoin might be a Ponzi scheme.
  • European Union: Issued a warning about virtual currencies in December. The European Banking Authority “pointed out that since the bitcoin is not regulated, consumers are not protected and are at risk of losing their money and that consumers may still be liable for taxes when using virtual currencies.”
  • Finland: The Finnish Tax Authority is on it. Capital gains tax applies when bitcoin is converted to another currency. Using it to buy things should be treated as a trade, while any increase in its value over the price at which it was obtained should be taxed. However, bitcoin losses cannot be deducted.
  • France: No love for bitcoin. “There are no specific laws or regulations regarding the Bitcoin system in France,” but the central bank has criticized it as speculative and warned about its use for nefarious dealings.
  • Germany: Of course it has rules for Bitcoin, treating it like a foreign currency.
  • Greece: There are a few businesses there taking bitcoin, but the government is ignoring it for now.
  • Hong Kong: Nothing official, though the treasury secretary there said existing laws forbid its use for fraud or money laundering.
  • Iceland: Icy toward Bitcoin. “The Central Bank of Iceland reportedly stated that engaging in foreign exchange trading with bitcoins is prohibited, based on the country’s Foreign Exchange Act.”
  • India: Nothing explicit in the law yet, though its banks have warned the public about the “risks of cybersecurity attacks and money laundering” related to Bitcoin, and cautioned investors in December. “India’s largest Bitcoin trading platform, suspended its operations, citing the RBI’s notice. Also, two days after the advisory, India’s Enforcement Directorate raided the premises of the person in Ahmedabad who had hosted the Bitcoin trading platform, According to news reports, the raid occurred because of alleged violations of India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act rules. Recent news reports cite the resumption of operations of some Bitcoin operators and the emergence of new players in the market.”
  • Indonesia: Sounds ambivalent. A spokesman for Bank Indonesia reportedly issued a statement on Bitcoin in December 2013, saying that “[b]itcoin is a potential payment method, but it’s different than ordinary currency… . It is not regulated by the central bank so there are risks… . At the moment, we’re studying bitcoin and we have no plan to issue a regulation on it.”
  • Ireland: No official statement, though they’re reportedly thinking about how to tax it.
  • Israel: Same as Ireland. They are starting to see cybercrime around Bitcoin though: “An incident of an alleged attempted extortion involving a request for payment in bitcoins was reported on December 19, 2013. At least three Israeli banks have received emails from an unknown individual threatening to release the personal details of millions of their customers unless the payment was made.”
  • Italy: Looks to the EU for guidance. “The use of electronic currency is restricted to banks and electronic money institutions—that is, private legal entities duly authorized and registered by the Central Bank of Italy. Aside from these developments, Italy does not regulate bitcoin use by private individuals.”
  • Japan: Despite being the home for years to the long-time monster exchange of Bitcoin, Mt. Gox, Japan is silent on the issue.
  • Malaysia: Nada.
  • Malta: Nothing official, even as businesses develop there. “In October 2012, a Maltese company launched the first bitcoin hedge fund.”
  • Netherlands: Doesn’t see virtual currency as being an electronic money, so Bitcoin isn’t covered by existing regulation, but it does recognize something from its past in Bitcoin’s rise. “The Dutch Central Bank (De Nederlandsche Bank, DNB) recently called attention to the risks posed by the purchase of virtual currencies, including bitcoins and litecoins, and warned consumers to be wary…. The former President of the DNB, Nout Wellink, has called dealings in bitcoins a bubble that is “pure speculation” and “hype” and “worse than the tulip mania” of the seventeenth century because “at least then you got a tulip [at the end], now you get nothing.”
  • New Zealand: Kiwis are all good with Bitcoin as long as it is not turned into a physical note or coin.
  • Nicaragua: The government is not doing anything about Bitcoin but it is in use there. “The Nicaraguan daily El Nuevo Diario reported on January 13, 2014, that an American banker, Greg Simon, recently bought a 1,200-square-meter plot of land in San Juán del Sur, one of the most important tourist areas in Nicaragua, for 80 bitcoins, currently the equivalent of about US$72,000.”
  • Poland: Is looking to the EU, with the Polish minister of finance warning that the country needs to figure out how to tax it.
  • Portugal: Doesn’t think it’s a “safe currency” but says “users can both buy and sell virtual currency with legal tender and can purchase goods and services in both the real and virtual worlds.” It looks like trading and use is low there.
  • Russia: Don’t plan to buy your Olympics swag with Bitcoin. “There are at present no legal acts that specifically regulate the use of bitcoins in the Russian Federation,” but a Russian law firm thinks that using it to buy things there could be illegal given that the Russian ruble is the exclusive means of payment in the Russian Federation per the law.
  • Singapore: Has warned investors against Bitcoin, but has not forbidden people from using it not businesses from taking it. The country’s tax authority says whether it should be taxed depends on how it’s being uses.
  • Slovenia: It’s not sure what to do about Bitcoin yet, but is sure it should be taxed.
  • Spain: Nothing official, but people using it should be paying taxes per bartering rules. Notably, the U.S. is not the only government with a Bitcoin wallet. “Spain was the second country in the world to seize bitcoins during an investigation of fraudulent transactions conducted with bitcoins, according to a November 2013 report by El Mundo.”
  • South Korea: Nothing yet.
  • Taiwan: Has cautioned investors and businesses away from Bitcoin.
  • Thailand: Bitcoin is in a grey zone as existing laws do not apply.
  • Turkey: Its banking regulator says existing law does not apply and warned people against using it. Turkish financial experts compare Bitcoin to “to Tulip mania in Holland, the Mississippi balloon in France, or the Enron or mortgage balloons in the United States, because the bitcoin ‘has no use value, but only exchange value.’” (Kudos to the Turkish commentators for digging further into history than tulip beds.) Turkish people evidently don’t care about the warnings. “Nevertheless, bitcoin use is apparently flourishing in Turkey. There is a Turkish Lira-Bitcoin exchange, called BTCTurk, and leftover foreign currency can be exchanged at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport for bitcoins through a Traveler’s BOX, a machine like an ATM.”
  • United Kingdom: It’s snubbing Bitcoin. “In the latest quarterly reports from the Bank, Bitcoin is expressly excluded.”

MIT cognitive scientist Deb Roy exemplifies the power of Big Data in his latest TED Talk: harvesting big insights from “the largest home video collection ever made” to understand the process of how a child learns language.

In this example, Deb Roy’s team captures every time his son ever heard the word water along with the the context he saw it in. They then used this data to penetrate through the video, find every activity trace that co-occurred with an instance of water and map it on a blueprint of the apartment. That’s how they came up with wordscapes: the landscape that data leaves in its wake.

By: Nicolas Weidinger

After years of deliberation, the Asimov Convention was forced into action. A rogue cloud of nanoots known as Utility Fog had started to rapidly alter the stratosphere in a dangerous way. The only fix that would have an immediate effect on the quickly advancing Fog is a similar State issued Fog that only existed in laboratories at the moment. With this fog, the State and it’s citizens could do almost anything: monitor and stabilize a person’s glucose levels, heart rate, brain activity, and even the complicated colony of micro organisms that lives in every human being. State Fog could defend against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. And if a technician whispered the words, State Fog could stabilize the global environment that was now rapidly spiraling out of control. For years, State Fog was locked down, as thousands continued to die from cancer, as millions died every day, ravaged by war and famine, as the environment slowly spiraled out of control. 

When State Fog was discovered, an international regulatory committee was brought together in what is known as the Asimov Convention, named after Asimov’s three laws of robotics. The three laws were unanimously agreed upon, however the reality of what constituted “injury to another human being” had become tremendously complicated in our globally connected world. But the Rogue Fog has forced the council’s hand. Scientists determined that the outer stratosphere would degrade in only a matter of weeks, causing total global collapse. The Council was forced to make those hard decisions about what “injury” meant in the 21st century, and on this day the day the world changed forever. 


MIT 4D printing

Molecular motor balanced on single atom bearing.

Digital files stored and retrieved using DNA

Biological models used for nano-scale communication

Ant Routing

[1] G. Di Caro, M. Dorigo, “AntNet: Distributed Stigmergetic Control for Communication Networks,” Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, vol. 9, pp. 317–365, 1998.

[2] G. Di Caro, F. Ducatelle, L. M. Gambardella, “AntHocNet: An adaptive nature-inspired algorithm for routing in mobile ad hoc networks,” European Transactions on Telecommunications, 

Special Issue on Self-organization in Mobile Networking, vol. 16, pp. 443–455, 2005.

As digital fabrication came online, even the corporation’s physical objects could be easily copied. But they still couldn’t find a good way to lock their commodities into the consumer retail space. Voters forced legislation that prevented total lockdown of content, the constitution prevented ubiquitous censorship and surveillance. The only thing that corporations could do, was make to try and make more technology faster, and to try novel marketing techniques. Production cycles dropped form years to months to weeks to hours. The day after a new phone launched, fab shops would freely hand out identical copies all over the pre-post industrial world. The only thing that kept corporations afloat were the diehard loyalists that based their identity — their entire lives off of the brands they consumed. 

Bionic Skin for a Cyborg You - IEEE Spectrum

Your skin is essentially an interface between your brain and the external world. It senses a tap on the shoulder or the heat from a fire, and your brain takes in that information and decides how to react. If we want bionic skins to do the same, they must incorporate sensors that can match the sensitivity of biological skins. … WHY NOT BUILD SUPER-SKINS THAT HAVE MORE TACTILE ABILITIES THAN OUR OWN SKINS?


Ordnance Survey recreate Great Britain in “largest Minecraft world ever built based on real-world data”

Ordnance Survey, the body responsible for mapping Great Britain from top to toe, have recreated 86,000 square miles of it in Minecraft. The map was built in two weeks by intern Joseph Braybrook and OS’s Innovation Labs team using the mapping authority’s OpenData products, and can be downloaded to explore for free.

Ordnance Survey’s data covers England, Scotland, Wales and their surrounding islands. The resulting Minecraft map incorporates 224,000 of Great Britain’s 229,848 square km.

“We think we may have created the largest Minecraft world ever built based on real-world data,” OS Innovation Lab Manager Graham Dunlop told the BBC.

“The resulting map shows the massive potential not just for using Minecraft for computer technology and geography purposes in schools, but also the huge scope of applications for OS OpenData too.”

Once downloaded, the map starts new players on the spot of OS’s head office in Southampton. From there, they can make mainland Britain - 22 billion blocks of it - their playground.

cf BBC News - Minecraft game adds Ordnance Survey GB terrain data

This is an increadibly useful tool for exporting images from open street map. Option to activate different layers