The muse is as ubiquitous as the smartphone, but much more functional. A muse is roughly palm sized and functions through verbal commands, hand gestures, and the use of a holographic menu that projects a few inches from the device. It is fairly common for muse users to have a a minor implant to allow them to interact with their muse synaptically.
The Muse was not the first cognitive handheld, but it was the ultimate expression of a Cognet interactive device. There were several things that granted it this status. It was the first handheld that offered a synaptic interface, allowing users to handle apps and functions through a brain link. Muse also had a pioneering advertising campaign and cornered a market on the production side. Once Muse had made a splash with their first OS, Athena, the other tech companies were forced to sit back because there were no synaptic component manufacturers who were available to manufacture components for them. Muse had tied down supply lines of a tertiary product for two years supplying them and their products. Several other manufacturers attempted to start up their own supply lines, but it was found that it would cost ten times more to build new production lines that it would to take to just wait.
Fifty years later, almost all Cognet handhelds are known as Muses, along with the OS that run them.
The Muse is an everyday item that the vast majority of people in the Cosmic Era first world own. Certainly everyone inside the arcologies, megacorps, and militaries have them. The most common use of muses is to simply interact with the CogNet, running social apps, gathering news and stories relevant to the owner, and other social media entertainment things. A muse also handles person to person communications, from texts to vidchat. If a person isn't available to talk to someone, the muse OS is, and is a fairly reliable method to get with people.
The heart of every muse is the Cathex program. This is the literal machine spirit that takes a muse from an inert device to a living quasi-sentient being. The first generation of cathexes were set, but the later generations added first multiple versions, and later, heuristic learning abilities so that the cathex could grow and change with the user. This was only possible because of the synapse link in the device. Previous learning machines struggled with learning what people wanted wasn't always what they said they wanted or demonstrated that they wanted.
The Muse was the first device that the average user could access without taking it out of their pocket.
Enhanced Self-Awareness - the cathex of a muse device can act as a virtual conscience for the person using it, where the program can work not just as a filter for augmented reality, but also act as a guide in real life. This can range from the basic warnings of pending physical peril, to much more prosaic things such as pointing out when the user has acted in a way that is contrary to their wellbeing, acting out of sorts, generally been a jerk, and so forth. This subroutine is generally seen as harmless and innocuous enough that few people consider what the long term consequences are of a machine conscience, and to what extent the programming of this conscience can be used to manipulate people. Can corporations pay money for beneficial cathex response? Can political parties use media spin to hijack cathex opinion?
Purpose Detection - another subroutine of the MUSE software is to find a greater purpose for the user. One of the issues of the Cosmic Era is that resource scarcity has largely become an archaic concept, through reduced demand for material goods, and for high efficiency manufacturing and recycling. Another casualty has been personal interaction, with a large amount of social interaction happening in a purely virtual cognitive fashion. The Purpose Detection subroutine functions as a compass and a rudder for the user, slowly but inexoriably pointing them in a societal useful direction. While this might or might not make them happy, it is generally true that people with a sense of purpose are happier and more productive than those who do not.
Tradition Intimation - One of the most important facets of a society and culture are it's collective traditions. The problem with old traditions is that they are old, long-standing, and in a highly paced almost frenetically progressive society, become outmoded, old-fashioned, or obsolete in a blink of an eye. The tradition intimation sub-routine identifies certain key cultural and social traditions and provides positive reinforcement for adhering to these value sets, while applying mild negative reinforcement by going against them. While values vary from cathex to cathex, almost all units have subroutines supporting the status quo, engaging in economic activities that generate profits for the corporations, and not engaging in criminal behavior.
Most people with the means to own a MUSE are typically also able to afford or otherwise own a gesund auf, a biometric device that allows them to link their vital signs to their MUSE. This allows for real time alerts in case of accident or a health crisis, information for first responders looking for survivors in rubble, running biological diagnostics to diagnose common diseases, and adding a true genetic/biometric security system for operating a MUSE and cognitive systems.
The muse has applications other than the typical consumer applications. Muses and their cathex programs are used in shadowrunning ops, shadow ops, military applications, robotics and remote piloting, and other uses. A high end muse can remote control a vehicle, and military muses can control combat vehicles. Custom made muses have the ability to hack computer systems, handle tasks on par with a human user or better in some cases.
Where a subroutine runs within the confines of a program, meta-routines run within the confines of a system, and in the context of the MUSE, the system is a regional network, node, or other cognitive region. Meta-routines function in the same fashion as the above mentioned sub-routines, with the difference being that MUSE users are as often unaware of their existence, and are likewise unable to interact with, alter, or otherwise ignore the functions of a meta-routine. That being said, these routines are very subtle, very gentle, and very easy to overlook, rationalize, or otherwise ignore.
Heritage Intimation Archive - just as individual MUSEs and cathexes can and do run Tradition Intimation subroutines, the CogNet controllers can run Heritage intimation, creating another layer of manufactured identity. Superficially, this meta-routine seems like nothing more than an intuitive regional specific archive of geography, social studies, history, and other ethnic values and morals. The function of this routine is used to lock in regional and ethnic values as desired by the system running it. This is the cognito-digital version of the hand over the heart pledge to the flag, or the almost programmed behavior of bowing heads to pray.
Empathy Broadcast System - The EBS is an emotional response provoking system. The system is not very powerful, it can't move a person to tears or into suicidal thoughts, but it can move tens of thousands to find something humorous, or disgusting, and as such is used as a tool to adjust the public reaction to match the desired outcome. No one really likes the Kardashians, but they are really really popular, aren't they? Other uses include sadness or sobriety in the wake of specific incidents, provoking hostility at the sight of certain names, images or ideas and otherwise uses of low intensity, wide scale, emotional manipulation.
Happiness Broadcaster - A basic function of the MUSE networks is that muse users are happier than non-muse users. This is a measurable phenomenon. On a basic level, the meta-routine rewards people for using the MUSE devices and cognet relays that support them. Smartphone addiction.
Civilian Muse: Aside from basic operations and app management, the civilian Muse has access to three skills at basic to intermediate level. It is common for users to have their muses equipped with conversation/personal interaction skills, cooking skills, and artistic expression.
Military Muse: this OS has the same functionality as the civilian model, but has hardened code, and three to five skills such as tactics, military protocol, diagnostics, piloting/driving, linguistics, communications, and combat modeling.
Custom Muse: this custom made program and system can have as many as a dozen skills, half of which at the advanced level. This can include skills that allow the muse to masquerade as a human, hijack systems, commit computer attacks, and other abilities.
Jail-Breaking a MUSE
Like any piece of technology, a MUSE and the associated cathex program can be hacked, their protecting coding removed, and their internal composition adjusted. This is a default must for any would be shadowrunner, criminal, terrorist, or anyone else who doesn't want to be found at the push of a button. The main use of a jail-broken MUSE is to act as a false ID, so that if there is a pinged search for the person in question, they aren't actually pinged because all the data is wrong. Likewise , if the person is actually pinged, the jail-broken MUSE can be reconfigured, or scrambled, or otherwise discarded to elude discovery and capture.
The best jail-broken MUSEs are borderline sentient programs that with time, can develop their own true personality and will.
Burner Muses exist for the purpose of providing scapegoats or a dead body to throw law enforcement or other pursuers off of a trail. The device itself and it's biometric data are discarded after being used. Should the unit be found, it is likely to have been incinerated by shorting out the battery, or contains the information of a dead person.
Musenapping is a common form of identity theft in the Cosmic Era. This act involves stealing a person's cathex, possibly even the muse handheld unit and holding it for ransom, and threatening to destroy it if they don't get what they want. The information is very safe, as the only way to access it would be through the user's own permission, or through hacking their cortical stack. This would mean that the person would have to be willing, or that they had a cranial implant removed.