This is a lightly-edited version of an article originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 1997, and which appeared in its present form in the February/March 2015 issue.
Wherever there are children, there will be toys. The Third Imperium is no different. On all of the thousands of worlds that humaniti has settled on, dress up dolls have always been popular items. The “Dress Me Up” system from Delgado is a high-tech holographic version popular in mainstream Imperial culture. The “Dress Me Up” system is not the only version of the toy in Imperial space, but it is by far the most popular.
Delgado’s “Dress Me Up” system is a return to the basics of toymaking. It is basically the same as such toys as “Barbie” and “Kisyakae” dolls on Terra, the “Admii” doll on Vland, as well as countless others that have existed throughout the hundreds of thousands of years of human history. You have a doll, and you can dress up that doll in any combination of a large variety of different outfits. In this case, however, the doll and the outfits are holographic and are stored on data cartridges that are read by a specialized computerized unit. The system has a long history, and variations on the same unit have been in use since 824. Modern units are compatible with older data cartridges, which has created a thriving collector’s market.
Physically, the system is a disk with sloping sides. The diameter is 34.5 cm at the base, and 32 cm at the top. It stands 12.5 cm high and masses 0.4 kg. The edges are rounded and there are no sharp protrusions. A touch-sensitive viewscreen is set on the side of the unit, eliminating the need for buttons. The screen covers just a little under half of the side. The hardware that projects the holographic images is set in the top underneath clear, scratch-resistant plastic. There are sockets for data cartridges built into the back of the unit, two large ones for doll data cartridges, and six smaller ones for clothing data cartridges. Next to these sockets are two jacks, one for a power cord, and one to hook the unit to a computer system so clothing combinations can be saved and viewed on the computer at a later date. Both jacks are Imperial standard and the connecting cords are readily available on any world with an Imperial presence. The unit is extremely durable, and on the off chance that any part should break, the components inside are extremely user friendly. A fixed rechargeable battery allows the unit to be operated for up to thirty hours from a full charge. There is no power switch on the unit, the unit is switched on when a doll cartridge is inserted, and switched off when the cartridge is removed. If the unit is left alone for ten minutes, it will shut off automatically, and can be turned on again by re-inserting a doll data cartridge. Two dolls can be displayed at any given time, and the fully re-configurable viewscreen allows the dolls’ position and the clothes to be changed.
The data cartridges are also very durable. They are rectangular with rounded edges, and are set within a sheath that retracts when inserted. The doll data cartridges are 4.5 cm wide, 6 cm long, and 1.8 cm high. The clothing data cartridges are smaller, 2.5 cm wide, 4 cm long, and 1 high. The labels on the cartridges will vary in size depending on local tastes, but older cartridges tend to have a smaller space covered with label. Modern cartridges are often completely covered with a brightly colored label.
The doll information on the cartridges varies from location to location within the Imperium. Third party companies purchase licenses to produce dolls, so the variety is almost endless. Doll clothing cartridges are extremely common, and can be used with most dolls, since scaling algorithms in the unit ‘tailor’ the outfit to fit the current doll. However, some clothing data is protected and will only work with certain dolls. The Imperial family have always been hot sellers; “Dress Me Up: Ciencia Iphegenia” recently broke the previous sales records set by the “Dress Me Up: Liisha Memorial” doll set licensed by the estate of the late Vilani fashion model turned actress and singer.
Usually, the dolls are not anatomically correct. In some locations, however, making the dolls anatomically incorrect is viewed unfavorably, or even as an insult. As a result, the anatomically correct data is stored on the cartridges and is decoded by a special chip that comes in the units sold in those areas. Unlicensed decoding chips have been made, and are covert hot sellers in all areas of the Imperium. Obviously, there are enough people interested in undressing the dolls and posing them lewdly to make to make the trade in these chips profitable.
As previously noted, the durability of the cartridges, and the long history that the system has had, have created a thriving collectors market in the Imperium. Older cartridges can sell at conventions and auctions for hundreds of thousands of credits. Currently, the system enjoys rising popularity, so such conventions are common all over the Imperium.
Delgado keeps a tight leash on this product, as it is a constant source of income, and the megacorporation will vigorously pursue all legal means to keep unlicensed products off of the shelves. However, for reasons known only to Delgado, they do not seem to pursue the market in the pirated chips, although they denounce them publicly in their own “Dress Me Up” magazine, and in statements to the press. More cynical types note that Delgado obviously knows that the pirated chips open up a new market for the system, and units sold are still units sold, allowing them to keep a leg up on the competition.
The unit has found its way into a number of other niches as well. They are used in classes at universities and colleges to display outfits and uniforms of bygone eras. Specialized units are also used at art schools for fashion design. These units have an additional connector to allow input from an Imperial standard computer so outfits can be made and tailored to fit specific “dolls”. Delgado keeps a close eye on these units, making sure that unlicensed outfit cartridges aren’t produced. “Dress Me Up” units are highly sought after on worlds with low levels of technology, as their educational use is almost invaluable. Delgado is currently market testing a new spin on the toy called “Dress Me Up: Snapshot”. Consumers can go into a specially licensed boutique or toy store and have themselves “encoded” into the “Dress Me Up” standard. Then this encoded image can be written onto a data cartridge and used as any other doll would be. In some places where “Dress Me Up: Snapshot” has been tested, the cartridge is time-limited and must be renewed every month. Delgado hasn’t completed its full analysis yet, but it is expected that some form of “Dress Me Up: Snapshot” will be available Imperium-wide within two to ten years.
Current Delgado “Dress Me Up” systems are TL13, although the earliest units would be considered TL11. These units can be purchased at any world with an Imperial presence, regardless of the planetary tech level. The units are extremely technician friendly, and can be repaired or modified at any world with a tech level of 8+ by any technician with access to the proper repair parts. Of course, having the unit repaired by a non-licensed technician is not advised, as the Delgado warranty will be voided. The cartridges are available in all corners of the Imperium, and, much like the systems, can be bought at any world with an Imperial presence regardless of the level of technology that can be produced on the planet. The pirated decoding chips can be purchased on the black market throughout the Imperium, and can be manufactured at any world with a tech level of 10+.
- “Dress Me Up” Core System:
- Retail: Cr85 Wholesale: Cr45 Mass: 0.4 kg
- Average Doll Data Cartridge:
- Retail: Cr20 Wholesale: Cr10 Mass: Neg.
- Average Clothing Data Cartridge:
- Retail: Cr5 Wholesale: Cr3 Mass: Neg.
- Decoding Chip:
- Retail: Cr30 Wholesale: varies ~Cr8 Mass: Neg.