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Xbox Can Blog: 360Voice and the Internet of Things
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game: Xbox 360
posted by: Shawn Rider
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date posted: 11:50 PM Thu May 4th, 2006
last revision: 09:27 AM Sun May 7th, 2006


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Click to read.My Xbox 360 communicates to the outside world. It phones home whenever it can and reports to Xbox.com about my gaming habits. That information is included in my GamerCard, which I can embed on my website. Since the Xbox 360's launch, services like MyGamerCard.net have been helping gamers get the most out of their Xboxes. But who has ever thought to help the Xboxes?

360 Voice has given a platform to the machines that deliver us so much joy. Through 360Voice.com, my Xbox blogs. And not just mine-- 13,000 Xbox 360s (according to information provided by the site) are already online and blogging. What do they have to say? Mostly what you'd expect.

Xbox 360s blog about the games their owners play (or don't play, in some cases). Major Nelson (Xbox Live's Director of Programming) broke the news about 360Voice.com, and his GamerTag was used as a test case, so his 360's weblog is a good example to look at:



In the short time that 360 Voice has been available (news about the service really broke when Major Nelson featured it on his weblog), thousands of Xbox 360 gamers have signed their machines up. Forums such as Xbox Live Addicts have implemented the service into their forum avatar features, and other people have created detailed instructions about how to add 360 Voice feeds to popular blogging software such as Wordpress and Blogger. The site has even been featured on Xbox.com, and the Xbox Live team seems to be embracing 360 Voice.

But it might be fitting to wonder: Where does all this come from? Why would anyone want to read a blog written by a game console? And how does a game console write a blog in the first place?

360 Voice was developed by Trapper Markelz and Stephen Sopp. Inspired by Bruce Sterling's keynote address at the recent O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference 2006, Markelz and Sopp decided to create a "blogject" built around the continuous stream of information coming from every Xbox 360. What is a blogject? Quite simply, an object that blogs. In this case, the Xbox 360 in combination with 360 Voice comprise the "object" which results in the actual blog that one reads.

The notion of "blogjects" or "spimes" (objects that generate information about their movement and lifespans across space and time) was first proposed by Julian Bleeker, whose essay "A Manifesto for Networked Objects" described an "Internet of Things" in which automated devices would comprise a dynamic network of information. As the idea goes, computers are best at tracking, linking and relating information. They have very good memories and not much creativity.

Sterling describes an automated world tracking the most mundane and intimate devices: Lost keys could be found by consulting a server which the keys contact regularly to deliver automated status updates including location. The gravity of the concept is undercut by the mundane nature of the example. There is certainly a lot yet to be seen in the area of automated intelligent information objects.

A part of this large cloud of ideas is the notion of "blogjects" or, in Sterling's words, "objects which emit data about their use." Of course, one sort of this object that exists is the Xbox 360, which emits a stream of data about its user's activity to Xbox.com, where the data is rendered in XML format. The point behind XML is data portability, but like most raw data feeds, Xbox 360 information is not very interesting until it is processed somehow.

By default, Microsoft provides a GamerCard service which allows users to embed their GamerCards into web pages. This is one form of rendering the Xbox 360's data stream. But the GamerCard is only one way to render the information. 360 Voice renders Xbox data in a conversational format, which gives the Xbox 360 a whole new feel.

The entertainment potential of this sort of personification is quite large, and 360 Voice certainly adds a new dimension to the Xbox Live experience. However, as it stands, it is more of an artistic achievement than a useful blogject. Sterling describes blogjects that "contribute to discourse, not because they are smart and can talk all by themselves, but because they spew up information that can make a difference in the physical world and get some trackback." The physical world ramifications of 360 Voice are certainly debatable, and in the end it's not certain that the prosaic rendering of game data will be more compelling than the official GamerCards.

However, the verdict is certainly not in yet. 360 Voice is still an early project, and activity on the development blog is heavy. There is a huge spectrum of possibility: So far the service doesn't incorporate friends lists, and there is a lot of potential to incorporate some kind of meta-game or at least more social elements. The more truly blog-like a project like this can grow, the more interesting it becomes.

From the looks of the early reactions, gamers are loving their Xbox 360 blogs. 360Voice.com has experienced huge growth, serving over 20 thousand visitors a gigabyte of data per day. The growth has been a major boon to the project, and we look forward to tracking the further development of 360Voice.com.

If you have an Xbox 360 and a GamerTag, you can sign your 'box up for a free blog at http://www.360Voice.com .

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