Concluding our look back at the stories we covered during 2014 and what happened next, we turn to November. The Unicode Consortium, which develops standards to make sure characters appear consistently across different software and systems, unveiled proposals for changes to emoji, a system of characters for expressing emotions. It suggested the option to choose between five skin tones for each character rather than the current default of a neutral yellow. The idea has prompted debate, with critics arguing that the system could make it easier “to perpetuate racist stereotypes” but supporters arguing it would make the emoji more representative of the sender rather than an abstract emotion.
A 3D-printer for food is going into production. The Foodini uses capsules of virtually any ingredient that’s solid but flexible at room temperature. As well as commercial culinary uses, it can carry out fiddly tasks for home chefs such as “printing” filled lasagna with all natural ingredients without the need to roll out and cut pasta. Following an article that expressed unease with the food being “extruded”, the manufacturer wrote a LinkedIn blog post arguing that’s exactly what happens with most processed food already, just on a bigger scale and with more additives.
Assassins Creed: Unity needed a string of patches after faults including online play connection problems, frame rate issues & crashes, and all sorts of comical collision detection issues including faces disappearing leaving eyes and teeth floating in the air. Anyone who bought the season pass or Gold editions of the game (which covered future downloadable content) has been offered a free Ubisoft game as compensation; however, the small print shows that accepting the freebie means signing a waiver of any right to sue over the game’s faults.
RA Montgomery, the original publisher and a key author in the Choose Your Own Adventure series died aged 78. One Reddit user paid the ultimate tribute by using a comment thread to create “Choose Your Own Obituary.”
What looked suspiciously like a marketing stunt or prank involved a Kickstarter project for a games console accessory that drew blood from a player (for real) when their on-screen character was wounded. Kickstarter suspended fundraising for the project after it came to widespread attention. The developers maintain it’s a genuine proposition, but now suggest it could be used as a way to promote blood donation centers.
Nasa ground crew remotely operated a 3D printer on the International Space Station, producing a faceplate for the printer itself. Astronaut “Butch” Wilmore has since noted a socket wrench would be useful to have on board; the printer’s manufacturers designed one on-screen, Nasa verified it as safe for space and e-mailed the plans to the ISS, and four hour later Wilmore was using the tool.
Rounding out the year, in December, Gangnam style became the first YouTube video to pass 2,147,483,647 views. That was a problem as it’s the largest possible number that could be displayed on YouTube’s hit counter, which uses a 32-bit signed integer. It’s prompted renewed mainstream media interest in the “Unix Millennium Bug” issue, though several newspapers appear to have been confused between the way that many Unix systems use a signed 32-bit integer for tracking time (which will hit its own limit in 2038) and the issue of 32-bit vs 64-bit processors.