July 23, 2104
MADISON, NJ–If Nanosigns inc. has anything to say about it, advertisers will no longer be crying over spilled milk. At this year’s World Marketing Conference, the wholly-owned subsidiary of pharmaceutical and biotech giant American Home Products announced a new application for its fluid-manipulating nanobots: assembling advertising slogans and logos from spilled liquids.
The digestible, bio-degradable nanobots, suspended in any bottled or packaged fluid, are activated upon contact with the air. The bots quickly, cooperatively, assess the size of the spill and, manipulating the liquid on the molecular level, assemble an optimally-sized, pre-determined logo or slogan from the spilled liquid.
Spilled condiments can promote detergents appropriate for cleaning the stains they make. Spill-over from guzzled energy drinks can advertise upcoming athletic events. One early, unidentified customer plans to have excess beer foam form the familiar logo of its new line of trucks.
Originally designed to control spills of industrial solvents and petrochemicals, the nanobots required some modification before they were ready for the consumables market. Eliot Sterns, chief scientist at Nanosigns, explains: “Digestibility proved the most difficult challenge: digestibility without significant effect on flavor or calorie content. We’re talking about millions of self-replicating bots in a bottle of catsup, so we had to do some careful taste tests, look at the effect on the color and texture of the fluid medium, things like that. In the end we came up with something not unlike a living organism, but built from and around sugars rather than proteins.”
AHP invested billions in the development of nanobots for chemical spill containment, only to find the market evaporate in the wake of Congressional actions absolving dumpers of liability for “unintentional” health and environmental consequences of spills.
“It turns out that we were working against ourselves” notes a former, highly-placed executive at the company. “Our research folks were pouring money into technologies for containing and controlling spills and leaks of chemicals while our political people were pulling for ‘no liability’ legislation. It turns out that the political solution was less costly, but we’d already put a lot into the nano thing. Somebody had to take the fall for that.”
The Nanosigns subsidiary took work that had been lying dormant at AHP for years and discovered an innovative application that’s good for advertisers and good for consumers. But some caution that these “spill signs” may be one step too far.
“How do we know that these nano-bots are not simply a way to bring advertising into our bodies?” asks Professor M. Vendicott, director of Chemistry in the Public Interest. “These ‘bots’ might be directing ads to our digestive organs as they pass through. Advertising is surely a good thing, as long as it isn’t inside me.”