“Let’s not be hasty, dear.” Boris
leaned forward. “This sounds a bit more
covert. Might come in handy, you know,
when searching for our man, am I right?”
“Eye-wateringly right.” Modell
opened the case.
“How does the implant work then?”
“Simplest operation in the world.
Look—” Modell took Boris’s face in his
“Really, Boris?” Annabel sighed.
“Now just look straight ahead for
me.” Modell held a slim silver cylinder
in front of Boris’s left eye. “You’ll feel
something like a blast of cold air.” There
was a sharp hiss and as Boris blinked in
surprise, Modell repeated the operation
on the other eye. “There you go. How’s
“Fine.” Boris rubbed his eyes. “Oh, I
say! I’ve found your data.”
“Yes, the interface should feel quite
intuitive. It’s one blink for yes and two
“I see, so I just blink to say yes to see
more of your email?”
“Basically.” Modell smiled proudly.
“Oho!” Boris blinked and stared
ahead emptily. “Newly single I see?”
“That’s right!” Modell grinned.
“And I just scroll back by looking this
way?” Boris was repeatedly glancing to
the left as if trying to draw attention to
something in the corner of the room.
“How inconspicuous,” said Annabel.
“Ah! A midlife-crisis poetry book!”
Boris blinked his yeses. “Oh, my dear
fellow,” he chortled, “this is a bit ripe,
isn’t it? Oh wait, I’ve closed it. How am I
supposed to stop blinking?”
“You’ll get used to it. Search for
something else, like my last blog on
the new Barbour phone—it’s scorching
“How do you turn it off?” Annabel
Mark Blythe has jumped on the design
fiction bandwagon and written a novel
called The Centenarians . Lacking
the decency to leave it in a drawer, he is
shamelessly sharing the excerpt below.
Annabel and Boris Bide, the 100-year-old
heroes, are sitting at the desk of
a Ministry official…
Back to do a special job!” Modell smirked. “A heavy duty but there’s no higher honor at the nd of an illustrious career. In the words of the poet and philosopher
Stan Lee, ‘With great power comes
great implausibility.’ You’ve got the
regulation walking stick, of course.
Want an upgrade?”
“No, thank you,” said Annabel firmly.
“Sure? The weapons are much
“Alright, then.” Modell looked
disappointed. “Well, I expect you’re
wondering what other gadgets we’ve
“Rather!” said Boris. “I expect there’s
been some progress since we were last
“Only a bit!” Modell drawled. “Here,
for instance,” he took a silver necklace
from the desk drawer, “is a lovely little
doohickey. At a given code word, it will
broadcast video and audio with your
location to the nearest law enforcement
agency. Basically, it detects—”
“Basically?” Annabel winced. “Do
you know, Mr. Modell, I’ve been trying
to remember why I found you so very
annoying all those years ago.”
“What?” Modell looked surprised
“I’m sorry but you must remember
I’m over 100 years old,” Annabel put her
hand over his, “and that tends to make
“Yes, it implies that there is a
much more complex version of what
you’re saying that you’re sure we
“I see.” Modell seemed abashed.
“Well, I’ll try not to use that word.
Any way—” he grinned, “basically,
this necklace gives you protection not
only when you speak the code word but
also when it detects stress or fear.” He
swung the pendant back and forth. “And
it accounts for context too so it won’t
raise a false alarm when you’re having a
difficult bowel movement.” He looked at
“My phone can do that,” replied
Boris with deep disappointment.
“Look, I know the firm doesn’t have
the funds it used to but if you’re going
to send a couple of geriatrics out on a
dangerous mission then surely you can
offer something a bit more impressive
Modell got up and crossed to an old
metal cupboard. “Alright, alright, that
was just a taster. I can see I’m going to
have to up my game.” The cupboard
door came off in his hand but he
rummaged inside as if he hadn’t noticed
and emerged with a small plastic case.
“Let’s see if this does anything for
you,” he smiled slyly, “instant ocular
implants with global voice and face
recognition. Basically, you put these in
and they’ll tell you everything you need
to know about whoever you’re talking
to. Every where they’ve been, everyone
they’ve talked to, what kind of biscuits
they like—all instantly searchable with
a very discreet blink interface.”
Practical Products for
INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG 18 INTERACTIONS MARCH–APRIL2015