“You squeeze your eyes shut
like this for three seconds.” Modell
“No one will suspect a thing.”
Annabel looked amused as Boris gurned
through a couple of unsuccessful
“Or it’s easily disguised as rubbing
your eyes.” Modell demonstrated again.
“Now, Mrs. Bide, would you like a pair?”
Modell’s shoulders sagged but he
straightened himself up and tried again.
“Well perhaps I can interest you in
this?” He pulled a handbag out of the
“Protection against the kind of
system I’ve just given your husband.
Basically, it creates a shield around the
user and sends out fake information.”
“Doesn’t that render Boris’s gizmo
“Well… yes, but only if the enemy has
got one of these. And this is state-of-the-
art field equipment!”
“What?” Boris blinked in irritation
and blinked again as he tried to close
whatever file he had opened. “Oh my
God!” he cried, “there are adverts! It’s
a bloody ad for Walmart Care Homes! I
think perhaps I’ll pass on these after all.
Could you take them out please?”
“Ah,” Modell shifted in his seat
awkwardly, “that’s a very different and
much more complex operation. Requires
a specialist, I’m afraid. I could set up
an appointment but it will take a few
“What!” Boris yelped.
“You don’t have to turn it on; just
avoid scrunching your eyes up, that’s all.”
Boris scrunched his eyes and blinked
while Modell made reassuring noises.
“Are these silly toys really all you
have to offer us?” Annabel tutted.
“What were you hoping for,” Modell
drooped, “jet packs and laser guns?”
“Something useful and practical!”
Annabel snapped, “like a jumper.”
“Well,” Modell went back to the
cupboard uncertainly, “we do have these
new body stockings.” He pulled out two
swathes of material that reflected the
light in strange fractal patterns.
“And what do they do,” Annabel
asked sourly, “make a report to central
office if we’re feeling disillusioned?”
“Well, basically they give the
same sort of support as heavy-lifting
exoskeletons. They’re very light but
incredibly strong and they mould
to your body to compensate where
weakness is detected. We’ve had agents
survive major explosions in these. The
material reacts to changes in velocity.
The inner layer forms a cushion and the
outer shell hardens into armor if you’re
thrown by a blast.”
“Or fall over in the kitchen?”
“Now you’re talking!” Annabel felt
the material. “Why didn’t you show us
this in the first place? We’ll take them!”
She leaned forward confidentially. “And
there I was thinking you were useless,
Modell smiled modestly. “Basically,
perhaps, but not entirely.”
Mark Blythe is professor of
interdisciplinary design at Northumbria
DOI: 10.1145/2734887 COP YRIGH T HELD BY AU THOR
MARCH–APRIL 2015 IN TERAC TIONS 19 INTERAC TIONS. ACM.ORG