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Pikmin Bloom is quintessential Nintendo – even without them

Maybe now we’ll see Pikmin 4…

Released worldwide on iOS and Android, Pikmin Bloom is the next game from Niantic to take a property and develop something around it that involves GPS. Originally based on Ingress, a geo-location-based game that had you claiming the land for your team, the studio followed it up with Pokemon Go, which has – to date – generated billions in revenue.

It is so popular, they host actual live events for people to attend on a yearly basis, as well as actively incentivise travel by hiding Pokemon in various countries.

Niantic hasn’t had success across the board, as the Harry Potter based game is actually being shut down next year. This was announced pretty in step with Pikmin Bloom getting released, leading to a choice tweet that gave me a chuckle.

Pikmin Bloom is wonderful. Like it might be a play-thing and sits more in the virtual pets section than say, Pokemon Go’s development into a battle-focused game, but no video game can match its eccentric level of charm that comes from the Pikmin themselves.

The noises, alien music and general happiness that ensues as you see them dossing around waiting to do something is good to look at, but what about actually playing the game?

Well, ‘play’ could mean a lot of things, but as I said, this is a play-thing rather than a full game. It could develop into something more, but outside of using the basic concepts of Pikmin (you need to command your squad to go collect fruit or seeds dotted around the map) it rarely actually involves doing anything other than walking. It’s a pedometer. A really fancy pedometer that you can watch your Mii frolic through virtual flowers in.

I think what Niantic has done here is actually create one of the most Nintendo products without much of their input. While Miyamoto might have appeared in the trailer as a consultant, I don’t really believe much else was handled by Nintendo themselves. This is prime Nintendo, a unique take on something that either already exists or makes you question why it exists, then furthers that thought into “why do I like this?”

The reason I like this thing so much is not just the cuteness, but the fact it is fairly innocent. There are microtransactions galore, but a couple of days in – and plenty of mobile games behind me – I can already tell this isn’t one of those that you need to dump cash into. It’s unobtrusive and hangs around in the background, only notifying you when things are grown, what the weather might be or to do the daily round-up at 9 pm ‘before bed’.

It’s a side companion that has the same energy as a Wii Fit, Wii Sports or even the more recent Labo, a game that had you crafting cardboard contraptions for your Switch.

Seeing the Pikmin toddle off into the distance, eventually returning with a post-card of where they’ve been and included group photo gives me this warm feeling while avoiding people in the wet streets of Manchester. It’s a thing that brightens the day when you need it most.

Sometimes you just need a bit of Nintendo silliness – that they take very seriously – to perk you up and I think that’s what Pikmin Bloom is all about. You look at it for a few minutes throughout the day and then you go about your business, all the while, contributing to the global goal of planting as many flowers you’ve been gifted from your Pikmin as you can.

It’s daft, but it’s quintessential Nintendo and they barely even touched it.

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What Are Nintendo Points And How To Use Them

If you own a Nintendo Switch and buy games to play from the Nintendo eShop, you might have noticed that you receive something called Nintendo Points. When buying games as a digital download on the eShop, you’ll also receive these points on select games or even DLC and Nintendo Switch software.

Maybe you’re unsure what these points are for or how to use them. If you’ve got a lot of Nintendo Points racked up, there are a lot of ways you can use them to get Nintendo-related goodies and prizes. In this article, we’ll go through what Nintendo Points are and how you get them, as well as where you can go to see how many you have and how to use and redeem them.

Table of Contents

What Are Nintendo Points?

There are actually different types of Nintendo Points you can receive. Gold points are what you get when you buy select games or software off of the Nintendo eShop, Nintendo website, or by redeeming codes. The amount of points you receive will equal 5% of the amount you paid. These will automatically be added to your Nintendo account upon purchase.

You can also get Gold points when you buy physical software, but you have to register the game card in order to receive them. You can follow the steps on the Nintendo website to do this on your Nintendo Switch and redeem your Gold points.

Next, there are Platinum points. These are earned when you complete missions related to Nintendo services, such as connecting your Nintendo Network ID to your Nintendo account, or link your Facebook account to your Nintendo account.

There are also a few smartphone game-specific Nintendo points you can gain by completing missions in these games. The games which offer points are Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Super Mario Run, and Fire Emblem Heroes. When you complete missions, either for Platinum or game-specific points, you can head to the Missions page on your My Nintendo account to redeem them.

Nintendo points also do expire, depending on the type of point. Platinum points will stay valid for 6 months from when you first receive them, while Gold points are valid for 12 months.

How to Use Nintendo Points

So what can you use Nintendo points for, and how do you redeem them? Each type of point allows you to redeem different rewards. Here’s what you can get with each type, and how to redeem these rewards.

Platinum Points

Gold Points

Gold points can be used on purchases of eligible digital games. Each Gold point you earn is equal to one cent, so 100 points would be equal to a dollar towards the purchase of a game. Here’s how to redeem Gold points on an eligible game:

In the Nintendo eShop, select the game you want to use Gold points on.

On the next page, select

Redeem Points

.

Enter the amount of points you want to use on the purchase, then select

Next

.

If the amount of Gold points you’re using covers the purchase, you can then hit Confirm to begin downloading the game. If not, you’ll have to add funds to the eShop in order to complete the purchase.

Game-Specific Points

With the points you can earn through some Nintendo franchise apps, such as Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you can use them to redeem rewards within the same game. Once you’ve completed a mission and received these points, you can use them for in-game rewards.

Use Nintendo Points to Get Cool Rewards

Collecting Nintendo points is a fun way to get rewarded with some great Nintendo-related items. They can also be useful when you’re buying games to get a bit of a discount. Nintendo points also aren’t too hard to obtain, making it a nice way to get rewarded for playing your favorite games or interacting with Nintendo products.

Gifts That Grow (Even Without A Green Thumb)

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Giving somebody a plant is special; you’re essentially telling them that you think they’re responsible enough to support another living thing. Not only that, plants have been proven to boost your mood and filter your air.

Some people give things, but you give experiences. Like the experience of growing a little bean sprout.

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Out-do even that pretentious guy in your office who cuts down his own 15-foot tree every year by growing your own from seeds. Sure, it won’t pay off for several years (or just one, if you like short trees), but play the long game. You could even plant one every year to ensure an endless supply of cheap and beautiful Noble Firs, right in your backyard. And just think—it’ll be the shortest trip to get a tree ever.

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Want something bigger? Enter: the Dawn Redwood. It grows well in most parts of the U.S. and will get up to 100 feet tall and 20 feet wide. OK, yes, maybe it’s not the best gift for most people, but if you know anybody with a desire for a personal grove of giant trees among which to perform ritualistic dances, this is a must-have. Alternatively: your giftee can keep it inside as a tastefully contained bonsai.

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Okay, so you don’t * technically * grow the Groot—you grow the vines that grow on the Groot. The sprouts grow quickly for (near) immediate payoff and you can train the bean sprout to twirl around him. Plus, his hands glow in the dark for that magical feel. Just remember to trim the grass, lest your Groot become overwhelmed by surrounding foliage.

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Shiitake mushrooms are expensive. Grow your own instead. This log comes pre-filled with mushroom spores so all you have to do is follow the simple instructions and reap the rewards a few weeks later. They’re way more interesting than growing a hydroponic tomato and are sold by a company by the name 2funguys. Come on.

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No one is too old to take pleasure in those little toys that grow after being submerged in water. (Pro tip: if you grow them in distilled water, they absorb up to 10 times as much fluid.)

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This kit makes 2 liters of alcoholic ginger beer using the provided yeast to convert the sugars inside the ginger to produce ethanol. And it has a sterilizing powder, so the yeast is the only thing that grows like crazy. Bonus: you can guilt your friend into sharing their results with you.

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On top of being the cutest planter you’ve ever seen, this little guy is super easy to grow. Air plants require no soil, and very little water, especially in winter. That means this baby plant will continue to grow with hardly any care. Just follow the directions to keep it relatively moist. Every planter is handmade for that bespoke feeling, so you know this gift is (technically) one of a kind.

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This kit helps inexperienced gardeners grow their own purple carrots and striped tomatoes. There are five types of seed in every kit.

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Sure, you could buy a bonsai tree that’s already grown, but where’s the fun in that? Give the gift of future responsibility by starting from seeds. There are three types in here, each with their own pots and peat blocks, plus instructions to seed them. The gift-ee will have years to research how you actually grow and train a bonsai to look like a tiny tree, so don’t worry about any of that now. Just tell them to focus on all the conversations they’ll get to have with friends—“Why yes, I *did * grow that myself!” Plus, it’ll outlive you all.

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Interested in talking about deals and gadgets? Request to join our secret Facebook group. With all our product stories, the goal is simple: more information about the stuff you’re thinking about buying. We may sometimes get a cut from a purchase, but if something shows up on one of our pages, it’s because we like it. Period.

How To Wash Your Clothes Without Wearing Them Out

We all have a favorite item of clothing we wish would last forever—the t-shirt from an incredible concert, that sweater grandma gave you, or the swimsuit you bought at a little boutique in France. But stains, tears, and worn spots can limit any garment’s lifespan—and laundering your clothes only speeds up the process.

If you’re tired of shirts fading and workout clothes stretching into flimsy wrecks, tweak your laundry habits to give them longer lives. To do that, you need to know why clothes fade and break down in the first place.

Know your fabrics

Different garments wear out for different reasons. “There are two really different families of fibers,” says Lana Hogue, a garment manufacturer with 25 years of experience, who teaches classes at Garment Industry 411. “There are natural fibers, and there are synthetic fibers. And they all need different care.” Natural fibers include cotton, linen, and wool, while synthetic fibers encompass nylon, polyester, spandex, and other heavily-processed fabrics. Each category is sensitive to different parts of the laundering process.

Synthetic fibers, found most often in sportswear, are particularly sensitive to heat and oil. “The heat from the dryer can cook a lot of garments,” Hogue says. Things like running shorts and spandex pants will lose their structure when exposed to a hot dryer too often.

Some synthetic-fiber clothes—like women’s swimsuits—are particularly vulnerable. It only takes one trip to the dryer to potentially ruin these garments. In addition, suits can break down more quickly if you use a lot of sunscreen, thanks to the oils in the lotion.

Cotton holds its shape better than synthetic fibers, but it isn’t nearly as colorfast: The water and friction of a washer will cause its hues to fade. To maintain color longer, Hogue likes blends, especially for dark items that can get that frosty-on-the-shoulders look. “When I’m looking for a black shirt, I will look for a cotton-polyester blend. Any amount of polyester is going to help retain the color in that black.”

In fact, blends get the best of both worlds. In addition to helping maintain color, the polyester will prevent the cotton from shrinking too much. The cotton, meanwhile, will keep the polyester from breaking down as easily in the dryer.

If you know what type of fabric your clothing is made out of, you can do a much better job of playing to its strengths—and weaknesses.

Read the care instructions (seriously)

Almost every item of clothing has a tag that tells you exactly how to care for it, and you should read it! (You probably already know this, but be honest: Do you really do it?) That tag will give you a really good idea of where to start, and what not to do, if you want that item to last as long as possible. If your tag only has symbols on it, this graphic from Primer explains what they all mean.

Hogue notes that most of these instructions err on the conservative side, so you can usually get away with slightly harsher practices. However, your clothes may wear out faster, so it’s best to be cautious. And there’s one instruction you should always follow: Items that say “dry clean only” absolutely must be dry cleaned.

In addition, Hogue says, “There is no difference between machine-wash gentle and hand washing. Unless you have a very aggressive washing machine, you can throw a hand-wash garment into your washing machine on gentle cycle, and it’s usually fine.” Just be careful of delicate clothing with straps or other parts that can get wrapped around other items in the wash. You might want to zip those items into a mesh bag for delicates to keep them in check.

Take extra care of the things you want to last

So you’ve looked at the tag, you’ve noted the fabric type and its instructions, but you still want to make absolutely sure that item lasts as long as possible. Hogue says the following tips go a long way.

Launder less often: “I don’t launder my dark clothes as often as I wash my light clothes because they just don’t show dirt as much,” she says. Natural fabrics will lose color faster the more often they’re washed, so if you can get away with laundering something less often—like if you wear an undershirt with it—do so. For items worn against the skin, like jeans, she says you can put them in the freezer to kill germs without doing a load of laundry.

Wash colors inside out: When you do go to wash those colorful cotton garments, first reverse them. Color loss comes from water and friction, and by turning an item inside-out, you can at least reduce the friction portion of the equation. This step is less important for synthetic fabrics.

Avoid heat (especially for synthetics): For synthetic fabrics, heat is the number one enemy. Even items made of a cotton-polyester blend shouldn’t go into the dryer on high heat. “The only things that can withstand high heat in the dryer are linen, cotton, and hemp,” says Hogue. Everything else should dry on low heat, or better yet, on a clothesline. Heat can also cook in stains.

Try line drying: “If you can line-dry all of your clothes, they’ll last so much longer,” Hogue stresses—but she admits that this is unrealistic for most of us. So instead of giving up and tossing everything in the dryer, give that extra bit of care to the few items you really care about preserving. “If you have favorite clothes that you never want to wear out, always line dry them,” she says. “They’ll last a lot longer.”

Nyt: Apple Is ‘Conceptualizing And Even Prototyping Some Wearable Devices’

Pictured above: The Paradox iPod nano watch kit

The New York Time’s Nick Bilton, who reported in October Apple’s alleged television plans describing “large parts floating around” Apple’s supply chain that looked like they “could be part of a large Apple television,” is back with a new story. He recently implied Apple’s researched prototyped small and wearable devices.

According to the article published last night, both Apple and Google have worked for years on wearable computers that interface with smartphones (having the ultimate goal of selling more smartphones):

A person with knowledge of the company’s plans told me that a “very small group of Apple employees” had been conceptualizing and even prototyping some wearable devices. […] Apple has also experimented with prototype products that could relay information back to the iPhone. These conceptual products could also display information on other Apple devices, like an iPod, which Apple is already encouraging us to wear on our wrists by selling Nanos with watch faces.

Interestingly, a year ago, Apple hired wearable computer wizard Richard DeVaul. He is believed to be developing secret wearable product prototypes under the guidance of Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design. Specifically, aNew York Times story described a curved glass iPod:

One idea being discussed is a curved-glass iPod that would wrap around the wrist; people could communicate with the device using Siri, the company’s artificial intelligence software.

In September, DigiTimes quoted supply chain sources that claimed Apple was readying unspecified devices sporting curved glass touchscreen for an early 2012 launch. Bilton’s story is in line with 9to5Mac’s recent prediction and sounds similar to Samsung’s flexible AMOLED display technology that is coming to their smartphones and tablets in 2012.

However, even if the New York Times’ report is true, and Apple has in fact been exploring wearable devices, this is no guarantee the company will market any such device as demand for those gadgets may not be big enough. Besides, the company often researches concepts that never see the light of the day, as evident in their numerous patent filings. Eventually, Apple may one day release a wearable iOS device of its own.

For starters, Apple deployed Bluetooth 4.0 technology with 2011 Mac minis and MacBook Airs and continued with the iPhone 4S, which is a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, meaning it can interact with peripherals such as  heart-rate monitors or smart watches. In June, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group added Apple to its board of directors for two years, another telling sign. Apple’s latest move to help proliferate Bluetooth 4.0 iOS peripherals involves a China conference for hardware partners to unveil a new certification chip and urge peripheral makers to get busy making Bluetooth 4.0-compliant iOS accessories.

Unlike the previous incarnation, the latest Bluetooth 4.0 specification offers the convenience of an extremely low-power and low-latency wireless transfer up to 50 meters away. Instead of taking up to six-seconds to pair, like current Bluetooth implementations, Bluetooth 4.0 takes just six milliseconds.

Depicted below: Samsung’s vision of the future involving flexible displays and another one showing off a prototype rollable and bendable display (demoed at CES 2011) that can survive blows from a hammer.

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This New Synthetic Tooth Enamel Is Even Harder Than The Real Thing

Every day, you grind your teeth, and they bear it. As you pulverize hard foods or clench your molars when you’re stressed, you can thank a nanoscopic shield for protecting your pearly whites: your tooth enamel. Only a few millimeters thick, this intricate outer layer on the tooth’s surface allows you to mash, shred, and chew without constant pain to the sensitive tissues beneath. 

Tooth enamel is the hardest known biological tissue in the human body (and also looks beautiful under a microscope). Dental scientists have long explored ways to replicate this super thin, but strong structure for longer lasting protection to keep teeth healthy. Now a team of engineers have taken a step closer. 

Materials scientists and chemical engineers from Beihang University, Peking University, and the University of Michigan have created a synthetic tooth enamel that’s even stronger than what’s found in our teeth. They described their crowning achievement in a study published on February 3 in Science. The biomimetic tooth enamel was modeled after nature’s original design, but tweaked in the lab to withstand even more wear and tear. While other engineers have been able to recreate certain parts of this hard outer layer, this new approach took into account both the stiff and elastic components to more closely resemble the composition and structure of the real substance.  

“Tooth enamel possesses outstanding viscoelasticity to endure vibration and deformational damage for ultra-long time service,” writes Hewei Zhao, the lead author of the paper and chemical engineer at Beihang University in Beijing, in an email. “These properties are traditionally considered as trade-offs. This is unusual in [human-made] materials and gave us motivation to study it.”

[Related: We finally know why we grow wisdom teeth as adults]

Enamel offers protection from a litany of oral offenses. It’s constantly bombarded by the onslaught of acids and bases from food and drink, and contending with new bacteria and changes in the mouth’s microbiome. Not to mention that enamel can be scraped down from over brushing and habitual teeth grinding. “The environment is so aggressive,” says Nicholas Kotov, a chemical engineer at the University of Michigan and a coauthor on the paper. 

Time, wear, and decay bore holes through a tooth’s outer layers, resulting in cavities and other dental issues. Unlike a broken bone, enamel’s defensive lining doesn’t repair itself, explains Janet Moradian-Oldak, a biochemist and professor in the School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research. 

In fact, enamel is devoid of living cells, Moradian-Oldak explains. “By the time the teeth emerge from the gum, the cells that make enamel, called ameloblasts, are dead,” she says. She’s currently testing out ways to regrow enamel with peptide hydrogels, but admits that it’s a huge challenge across dental research.

Part of enamel’s strength—and a reason why it’s so tough to copy—comes from its complex, intricate structure. The mineralized fortress is made of tiny interconnected tubes known as  nanorods, which are filled with a lattice of calcium hydroxyapatite, a type of calcium phosphate mineral. “The crystals are what make it very unique,” Moradian-Oldak says. 

(Left) Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of tooth enamel. (Right) Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of tooth enamel. Lin Guo, School of Chemistry, Beihang University, China

These nano-sized crystals are bundled together in a prism, each one interwoven and laced together, Moradian-Oldak says. “It’s like a handful of dry spaghetti before you drop it into the pot,” she says. But the hard crystalline nanorod structures can break without any supportive padding. As chewing forces pound the nanorods, an amorphous layer made of magnesium, proteins, and other compounds absorbs the blow and pressure so the rods don’t break.  

“Each of these little nanowires, or each dry spaghetti, is covered with an amorphous material,” Moradian-Oldak says. “Flexible materials are soft and hard materials are fragile, but what enamel really does is have a combination of both.” The slight elasticity of the amorphous substance is a key component to the hierarchical organization that gives tooth enamel its mechanical strength, says Kotov. 

“What’s important for biological structures is that there’s not just one property—there are many properties at the same time that have to be optimized, and enamel is one of those biological wonders,” he notes. 

To assemble the artificial tooth enamel, the engineers made their own tightly aligned crystal hydroxyapatite nanowires and coated them with zirconium dioxide, an even stronger version of the magnesium amorphous material, Zhao writes. This tuning and adjusting of filler content made the synthetic enamel “equal or better” than human enamel, Kotov says. “Past studies were able to replicate enamel with fully crystalline nanorods, which performs reasonably well … but not as well as when [our team] added the layer of amorphous phase. This study shows very eloquently and very convincingly that the macroscale versions of such high performance materials can be obtained,” he says.

(Left) Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of the artificial tooth enamel. (Right) Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of the artificial enamel. Lin Guo, School of Chemistry, Beihang University, China

Zhao and Kotov both think that the artificial tooth enamel could help people freshen up their worn-down defenses. But Kotov also sees the new approach going beyond simple patches and fixes and leading to actual “smart” teeth that self heal or sense inflammation, switches in the mouth’s microbiome, and acetone in the breath, which is a marker of diabetes.

However, Moradian-Oldak expresses reservations about its practical use in dentistry any time soon. The engineers created their enamel by heating materials to 300 degrees Celsius, placing them under freezing temperatures, and using polyvinyl alcohol to control some of the crystallization paths. “Remember, in nature, we don’t have extreme temperatures, extreme pH, extreme pressure as these engineers did,” she says. 

And while the artificial enamel contains critical aspects that haven’t been synthesized before, Moradian-Oldak adds, it doesn’t quite match the 3D structure of real human enamel, which is an important consideration for dentists when they’re adhering or anchoring material to a tooth or the bones in the jaw. 

“They got something which is much, much stronger, but it still lacks some unique higher hierarchy of enamel,” she says. Still, she notes that there are helpful takeaways from the team’s techniques and approach. “I was very impressed how engineers can actually mimic the basic scientific principles of composition and structure on a very, very precise level.” 

[Related: How to be a responsible adult and brush your teeth properly]

Understanding and engineering enamel’s structure on the nanoscale could lead to building materials for disciplines beyond dentistry, Kotov says. He and Zhao say that its stiffness and high tolerance to vibrations could be crucial in constructing earthquake-ready buildings. Moradian-Oldak imagines that it could be utilized to create helmets for soldiers as well. 

By looking to “biological wonders” like tooth enamel, engineers have the chance to improve upon nature’s design for materials and inventions that humans need more of, Kotov says. 

“Of course, nature can achieve that with evolution, but it takes a while,” he explains. “Some materials are available to us that are not available to cells. Now we can restructure these materials to obtain even better properties by replacing some of the components.”

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