Thanks to a beautiful marriage between digital signage company Fastrak and interactive voice response specialist Message Technologies Inc, consumers will soon be able to converse with in-store talking heads who will provide product information along with what we can only assume will be subliminal messages to max out your credit cards. These so-called Virtual Sales Associates will be positioned near particular items of interest ("Steve recommends you only buy iPod-brand MP3 players: always look for the apple!"), and are said to be capable of holding limited "natural language" conversations about said product. To include window-shoppers in their diabolical advertising schemes, retailers can also mount a VSA behind the glass and offer browsers a phone number for chatting up the salesbot. This is good news indeed for retailers like Best Buy, who will soon be able to not only automate the process of providing customers with fake pricing information
, but also begin planting the seeds of those rip-off warranties even earlier in the sales pitch.