Programmable Drinks

Image from Steve Bowers

Colloquial term (originally a brand name) for a class of programmable drinks first introduced in Sol System during the technological renaissance that flowered just after the founding of the First Federation.

As its name implies, wer-water (also known as smart-water, polywater, or sweet-water) consists mostly of liquid H20 stored in a specially designed container. The interior of the container supports an array of nanotech manipulators, energy producing feedstock, and caches of raw materials (mostly CHON). The exterior includes a simple touch display (usually powered by a small superconducting battery that can be recharged by a few seconds of brisk shaking) that permits the user to select among any of several possible flavors.

Once a flavor has been selected, the nanotech within the container uses the onboard materials cache to rapidly synthesize the sugars, acids, and other molecular structures needed to convert the drink into the beverage desired. A small, high-pressure CO2 reservoir in the bottom of the container may be used to provide carbonation, remove waste heat from the conversion process, or both. If a heated beverage is desired, the waste heat from molecular restructuring (sometimes assisted by an internal heating element or exothermic chemical pack) may be used to produce coffee, tea, or soup. Larger 'meal box' designs can synthesize nearly any food item but are often considered to be a distinct class of device in their own right or even a type of portable nanoforge.

Wer-water containers usually begin as simple cylinders or cubes for efficient storage, but may re-form into nearly any desired shape from teacups to bowls to stemware once activated. Many units also incorporate sensors and network technology allowing them to download new recipes, customize their appearance to the user’s recorded preferences, display information and entertainment from the local net, or even interface with the user’s personal medical systems to customize the nutritional content of their output to the consumer’s needs. In areas using Environmental Optimization Protocols a networked wer-water container may adjust its output in real time to perfect flavors to the user’s preference or synthesize items based solely on EOP inputs to always produce exactly what the consumer will find most satisfying without having to order it directly. Even in cultures that eschew EOP technology at this level, the practice of having a wer-water unit randomize its output, either entirely or within some broad range, is a common form of group entertainment (cf. The Galactic Book of Drinking Games).

Wer-water flavor options nearly always include fruit juices (orange juice, grape juice, and lemonade are popular, along with “rediscovered” juices synthesized from formerly extinct lifeforms and “newly discovered” juices created from various plant forms found on garden worlds) and carbonated soda drinks that are based on relatively simple molecular structures for their flavoring.

Alcoholic versions of the technology (wer-beer, witch-wine) do exist but are generally not as highly regarded by consumers, who often claim to either find the results less flavorful and satisfying or to feel some degree of disdain for flash-synthesized (as opposed to "real") beverages of this type.

Other Applications

Wer-water technology is used in a variety of other devices, including water purifying filters and containers and dispensers that analyze the users health status via exterior sensors and then synthesize the appropriate dosage of the desired substance (whether for medical or recreational purposes). The technology is also especially popular among clades who take some or all of their food in the form of liquids, ranging from nectar, to blood, to liquefied flesh. While most such clades gengineer specialized lifeforms for their overall food needs, the compactness, versatility, and convenience of wer-water based devices is ideal for times when space is at a premium or the sophont is in a hurry and doesn’t wish to take the time to stop for a meal.
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Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner
with ideas from Ryan B, Matthew C. Johnson, Mark Ryherd, and AI Vin
Initially published on 26 October 2012.