Last year Alexis Madrigal announced the introduction of the ultimate internet killer app, A Social Network for Hermit Crabs. He wrote about how there was a real estate bonanza to be found in their shells:
In previous years, most hermit crabs "were living in shells that were a tight fit or had one too many holes." Naturally, these aspirational consumers were always on the lookout for "more spacious dwelling[s]."...If you give them a new shell, the researchers discovered, the crabs will wait until the crab that fits perfectly into it comes along, then they'll all trade up, each acquiring roomier digs.
It turns out that Madrigal isn't alone in looking at hermit crabs, that they are not only interested in social media and real estate, but also in the current rage, 3D printing and digital fabrication. In fact, the so-called race to build the 3D printed house is over; It's been done, by Japanese designer Aki Inomata since 2009 for hermit crabs.
We learn from Designboom that she is a crab-serving cross between Donald Trump and Bre Pettis, who has also dipped his toe into the shellter market. She takes CT scans of the hermit crab shells abandoned in the last Belize real estate crash, modifies them with CAD software and then prints them with a rapid prototype system.
They are available in a number of architectural styles, from the garish New York-New York Las Vegas knockoff to the more restrained monster home designs that look like they might be more appropriate for Greenwich Connecticut than Belize. Unfortunately the hermit crabs have not learned any of the lessons of green building or the problems with plastics versus natural materials, discussions raging in architectural and political circles right now. Aki Inomata writes on her website:
Initially I was concerned that they might not be interested in the plastic shelters I had created.
However, one day I witnessed one of my hermit crabs moved into my shelter after he had been torn between a natural seashell and my plastic one. I was pleased with his decision, but also had mixed feelings as he chose a plastic shelter rather than a natural seashell.
Madrigal was truly prescient about social networks. I don't think there is much of a green modern prefab tiny house movement among hermit crabs yet, I may just dive in to that one.
Lots more hermit crab houses in Designboom