Oct. 16, 2152
LUND, SWEDEN–Cutting-edge bioengineering and 20th century nostalgia are equally represented in a new line of products from Toyboy Factories. Humites(TM) and Humites Environs(TM), both new for the holiday season, include cadres of miniature, human-like creatures, each about the size of a fingernail. Consumers can keep their Humites in one of the elegant bookshelf or coffee table Environs Toyboy markets, and care for them with a range of Humite Foods and accessories.
“We worked hard to be sure that Humites naturally form co-operative, social groups,” notes Toyboy Marketing Director Bird Smollet. “Marketing research told us that there was a lot of interest out there in terrariums and miniature environments. Ant farms have enjoyed residual popularity for generations. We realized that, with recent developments in organism design, we could offer an ant farm with a modern twist.”
Humite genealogy, it turns out, owes as much to ants and other social insects as to the humans they so closely resemble. “Humites look like people, but their physiology and psychology have deep roots in the genetics of social insects,” explains Engineering Director Pfifle Jubilee. “As the name suggests, much of the Humite genome comes from drone castes of social, mound-termites. The challenge, really, wasn’t to engineer tiny humans–we ruled that out fairly quickly as, physiologically, too difficult–but to genetically modify insects to very closely approximate human appearance, and to extend their encoded instincts to include human-like behaviors.”
The resemblance to humans is sometimes quite eerie. Not only do Humites look like miniature people, right down to their fine, micro-filament hairs, but they do some very human things, including wearing clothes. A variety of Humite wardrobes are available, typically coming in packages of a dozen matching coveralls which the consumer simply drops into the environment. Once the Humites discover the clothes, they put them on and spread the word to the rest of the group using chemical and pheromone signals and markers.
The Humite Environs Toyboy offers rival in elegance the ingenuity of the creatures themselves. The gracefully cut, grown-crystal Panoptifarm environment, which serves both as an attractive display case and a coffee table, is designed for large populations. Those with relatively small groups might favor one of the bookshelf cases, more reminiscent of the iconic ant farms of the past, and outfitted with detailed, brushed-aluminum cityscapes.
Unlike traditional ant farms, Humite Environs are dynamically expanded and re-designed by their residents. When supplied with a wedge of special, crystal building-resin (sold separately), Humites modify their environments, constructing transparent buildings, compounds, and, depending upon the size of the population and environment, villages and towns. By setting switches on Environs Access Points, consumers can enable their Humites to expand their environment as needed. One shelf unit filled with industrious and well-supplied Humites can be extended to adjoining shelves overnight through inter-connecting crawl-tubes and miniature, surface-tension elevators.
In order to ensure that Humite populations not spread in unwanted or inappropriate ways, Toyboy fixes the life span for individual Humites at about 36 months, and constrains their ability to reproduce. “In order to reproduce, Humites must receive a particular chemical signal that no Humite can, itself, produce, and that doesn’t occur in the natural environment,” explains Jubilee. “For those who want to expand their populations, we sell a special, proprietary breeding box treated with the appropriate chemical signal. By controlling access to and use of the breeding box, consumers can maintain or expand populations as they choose.”
“We’re anticipating a block-buster holiday selling season,” indicates Marketer Smollet. “Our first-run pre-sold in a little less than an hour. Everybody is going to want these cute little guys.”