New Camera Offers Product Placement in Snapshots

Oct. 3, 2006
ROCHESTER–Eastman Kodak today announced availability of a line of free digital cameras developed in partnership with digital advertising giant DoubleClick. The cameras, to be distributed for free to consumers under the “Phreeto” brandname, generate revenue in the form of sponsored digital product placements powered by DoubleClick ad-targeting technology. “Phreeto means freedom,” explains Kodak Marketing Director Helmut Juice. “By working with DoubleClick to enable an ad-driven business model we’ll be able to offer digital photography solutions to a much wider audience.”

Featuring gigapixel resolution and a materials-based flex-polymer zoom, the Phreeto offers two modes: a ‘sponsored’ mode in which select products are digitally placed in the ‘image environment,’ and a ‘premium’ mode offering added features for a modest subscription fee. “The idea is to give people choice,” notes Juice. “Price-sensitive consumers will get access to good, standard, network-ready personal imaging equipment. Those interested in added functionality or in disabling product-placement will be able to unlock those features with a subscription key.”

Beta-testers of the camera report mixed experiences. Though the Phreeto is designed to unobtrusively integrate placed-products into images, some users have noted limits to its compositing and re-touching algorithms. “Most of the time it seemed to not do anything that interfered with the pictures I was taking,” notes one tester. “It would just put a can of Pepsi on a table in the background, or maybe it would change your coat into something from Tommy Hilfiger. I think I’ve even got a picture at the Eiffel Tower with a McDonald’s in the background that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist. Sometimes, though, it would freak out. I don’t know how many pictures I’ve got of a VW bug setting behind the Rockies.”

Other testers report problems with the targeting of product placements. The Phreeto is designed to exploit proprietary DoubleClick technology to place demographically-targeted products. Through analysis of the pictures users take coordinated with interaction with wireless servers housing databases of demographic and product information, the Phreeto selects user-appropriate products and collects fees from sponsors based on the demographic desirability of user profiles.

A number of testers, however, have reported embarrassing flaws in the targeting technology, including one user’s reports of pictures of “the stands at the Super Bowl, with everybody waiving boxes of tampons. In one picture my friend Joe is suddenly modeling some new Victoria’s Secret bra or something.”

Asked about flaws in the placement technology, Juice notes that the majority of the “kinks” reported by beta-testers had been addressed. “This is a first-generation product and there are bound to be some wrinkles to iron out,” he explains.

A number of activist and consumer privacy groups have expressed concern about the new camera. Reacting to news of the Phreeto, Jimmy Sale, director of the Product-Free Living Coaltion, bemoaned the “insidious invasion of technologies of memory by the artifacts of consumer culture. Personal, domestic photography is intimately bound up with both memory and nostalgia. By invading our snapshots, these products will begin to invade our memories.”

Other critics concede Kodak’s ingenuity. “It’s really quite clever if you think about it,” notes Columbia University Professor Carla Kin. “It’s all based on the simple insight that consumer photography is a medium just like any other, and, just like radio, just like TV, it may be amenable to exploitation by advertisers.”

Available in markets with 5.F wireless networks, the Phreeto comes in three eye-catching colors: cobalt, vermilion, and asphalt, and in three aromas: jasmine, oatmeal, and patchouli.

Lay an Egg, Grow an Organ

Feb. 18, 2072
MINNEAPOLIS, MN–Consumer biosciences giant Monsanto Mills today unveiled plans to market a replacement-organ cultivation technology with a novel, consumer-friendly interface modeled on traditional agrarian processes. The as-yet unnamed product embeds organ cultivation in the familiar practice of plant husbandry, and is designed to evoke the warm, nostalgic feelings associated with America’s historic farms. “The real challenge for replacement-organ cultivation isn’t actually growing genetically compatible organs,” explains Monsanto’s VP of Human Development Eunice Freelie. “The real challenge is getting people to adopt organ cultivation as a part of their everyday lives. Our new approach will overcome some of the popular, though undeserved, aversion to organ cultivation.”

The new product, packaged in wood pulp cartons reminiscent of those traditionally used to market food-grade chicken eggs, consists of a series of color-coded, egg-shaped “sample vectors,” each designed to produce a particular organ system: red for kidneys, blue for a liver, pink and yellow for a heart, and ecru for lungs. The eggs are covered in a flexible selectively-absorbent membrane containing a proprietary combination of natural and artificial proteins and growth-factors. Consumers swallow the eggs whole, as many as three at a sitting according to preference. “It’s a bit like downing a large oyster,” explains Freelie. “We considered chewables, but felt that anything that violated the integrity of the eggs would not be consistent with our vision.”

Resisting digestion, the eggs’ absorbent membranes collect an array of samples as they pass through the digestive tract, including cells from the lining of the stomach and small intestines. Exploiting a patented hemo-osmotic process, the complex polymer membranes store imprints of key proteins, enabling the eggs to tailor subsequent organ development to the protenomic phenotype of the individual consumer.

After passing the eggs, consumers plant them in conventional potting soil. Within 7-10 days, the first sprouts appear, and, after 4-6 weeks of cultivation, the plants begin to bear large, egg-shaped fruit. Colored to coordinate with the egg from which it has sprouted, the rind of each fruit also bears tattoo-like marks shaped like the organ with which they are associated. The fruit ripens within days and can be picked once it makes a full, hollow sound when thumped.[p]
The melons each contain a set of organs of the appropriate type: handy, portable, and ready for immediate transplantation. Stored in sawdust, or in a cool, dry place, they can keep for up to 8 weeks.

“This new process has been testing very well in our focus groups,” notes Freelie. “Research had shown us, time and again, that people wanted to have genetically compatible organs available for transplant, but were intimidated by the popular image of weird tanks in a sinister lab. They also didn’t like the idea of giving up control over their own tissue.

“Now we’re addressing those concerns. This is a very user-friendly process. It involves cute eggs, something everybody can relate to. And the laying of eggs, just like a chicken on the farm. Plus growing a beautiful plant. There’s nothing more natural and human than working with the soil. We’re leveraging familiar skills and ideas to drive adoption of a technology everybody wants but few are yet comfortable with. This is a sure winner, and a real triumph for our product design folks.”

Market trials are scheduled to begin late next month, with world-wide product roll-out planned in time for the spring planting season.

Jordan’s Feet Can Be Your Shoes

June 23, 2085
NIKE, ORE–Speaking via satellite from the sleek public hearing room in Nike Town Hall, Nike’s visionary founder Philip Knight announced today the availability of a line of bioengineered athletic wear derived from the company’s most popular athletes. “I’m very excited today to introduce you to a revolution,” exclaimed Knight, modeling the company’s new Bio Jordan sneakers. “I am wearing Jordan’s feet. His living, breathing feet. And now you can too.”

The sneakers, grown in Nike’s factories using a proprietary process, have the look and feel of basketball legend Michael Jordan’s bare feet. Built around a special osopolymer frame, the shoes are covered inside and out by flesh genetically derived from Jordan himself. The inside of each shoe, lined also with warm, living skin, offers a snug, toe-sock style fit for maximum control and maneuverability on the court. Specially designed muscalature, sensitive to the pressure of the wearer’s foot, flexes to enhance and amplify performance. The largely biological components of the sneakers can sustain themselves for up to a year on time-release nutrients stored in the shoe’s hollow frame. Cuts, abrasions, and bruises heal naturally, with minimal scarring to ensure an unscuffed, like-new appearance for the life of the shoes.

“Nothing in the world compares to what I am feeling now,” marveled Knight, putting the new shoes through their paces on the Town Hall’s central court. “And it’s not just the control, the intimacy these shoes let me maintain with the court. It’s also the warm, human link they provide to the history of the game, to its myths, its legends, its gods.”

The sneakers, branded by hairs along the ankle and heel growing in the pattern of the Nike swoosh, have drawn fire from representatives of Nike athletes worldwide concerned that Nike might exploit obscure language in its contracts permitting the production of athletic gear bearing the “derived likeness” of signed athletes. “This is a big issue for us,” notes sports agent Henry Bucket. “About 65% of all athletes work for Nike and have signed similar contracts. Negotiations for royalties and licenses related to products like this have never taken place. Nike’s reported reliance on the ‘likeness’ language can only be in bad faith.”

International labor groups further criticize Nike for labor practices and conditions associated with the new line of shoes. “We don’t know all the details, but what we have heard troubles us profoundly,” explains longtime Nike critic Ellen Rugby. “From what we understand, the production process for these shoes relies on stem cells derived from fat extracted from employees. We’ve had reports that overseas subcontractors associated with these new shoes are signing big catering contracts with high-fat fast-food producers like McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Vulnerable overseas workers are being treated like human fat farms just so Nike can feed its own greed.”

Preferring to keep the broadcast “on topic,” Knight waved off questions concerning criticism of the new shoes, saying simply that Nike was happy to “stand on its record of progressive and responsible conduct.” “I’d really like to talk to you about what the future holds for Nike,” noted Knight, who went on to model other products in the new Bio line, including Tiger Woods Biogrip golf gloves, and what Knight called “booty shorts” to be marketed under the tag line “j. lo on the down lo.”

Mosquito-Repelling Genes Now Available Over-the-Counter

June 4, 2037
RACINE–Consumer chemical and health maintenance giant SC Johnson unveiled today a new gene-therapeutic version of its classic Off insect repellant. In place of the conventional topical or ingestible repellant, the new Off includes genes enabling the skin to produce a natural insect repellent of its own. “This is a real breakthrough,” notes company spokeswoman Linda Oat. “For all practical purposes this is a completely passive insect protection solution. Once you’ve had the Off treatment you’ll never have to worry about pests again; you’ll never have to remember to apply a topical again.”

Though many of the details concerning the new Off remain trade secrets, public filings by the company indicate that the treatment inserts proprietary ‘human-variant Bt’ genes based upon the venerable Bt anti-pest and anti-fungal genes widely incorporated in resistant crops. “The new Off is based on Bt,” explains Oat, “but the Off genes have been extensively evolved and adapted to produce a repellant very like traditional Off. This required not just modification of the skin, but also some tweaking of the renal and digestive systems in order to ensure that raw materials for the repellant were available in adequate supplies.”

The Off genes are delivered by a series of ingestible, color-coded tablets taken over a 72-hour period. Each tablet contains a mix of viro- and nano-mechanical delivery vehicles that bind to specialized receptor sites on target cells in order to spread the Off genes throughout the skin and other key systems. Within two weeks, the sweat and oil glands begin to produce repellant sufficient to ward off an array of pests, including mosquitoes, midges, gnats, ants, roaches, bees, flies, horseflies, and burrowing starlink weevils.

“Pests are no longer just annoyances,” notes Oat. “The increasing frequency of large-scale mosquito blooms, and a number of recent starlink weevil outbreaks, make it clear that pests are serious health risks. That’s why we’ve approached the redesign of Off with the best that medical technology has to offer.”

Though results of fast-track FDA approval are not yet available, environmental and consumer health groups are quick to point to disclaimers included with the new Off as an indicator of possible risks. “This is another example of chemical companies replacing public oversight with their own inadequate disclosure schemes,” exclaims ChemFree founder Donald Wrap. “The fine print on these disclaimers is very revealing, even though it often isn’t effective in protecting consumers. The label for the new Off, for instance, warns users not to ‘exercise near an open flame.’ What does that mean, really? What kind of risks are involved? We just don’t know.”

Critics also raise questions about the subscription price model announced for Off. Users will be able to purchase the initial treatment series for a nominal fee, but the Off genes include a special protein-based expiration lock that requires ingestion of special ‘subscription-renewing’ tablets sold separately in 7-day, 30-day, and year-long durations. “Is anywhere safe from IP licenses of this sort?” demands fair use activist Jill Terribly. “These companies won’t be happy until I have to pay a licensing fee for breathing and shitting!”

The new Off is scheduled for availability in drug and discount stores by the end of the month. Johnson plans to offer the repellant in three versions initially: unscented, CK One, and Lemon-Fresh Pledge.