Monday, August 31, 2009

Global Swarming

In his 2003 book, Smart Mobs, futurist Howard Rheingold predicted the next social revolution would be triggered by the ubiquity of mobile phones and computers. Their ability to send and share text messages, photographs, videos, and other instant data directly, he predicted, would give people a powerful new way to organize themselves on the fly, battle social ills as they are happening and ultimately transform cultures and communities—for better or worse.

We're not there yet, but we're getting much closer. Social media, still in its infancy, is evolving—from social networking to mobilization. The rise of self-organized groups into cause-focused swarms is just beginning to chip away at the economic and political order of things. The first stirrings of this became evident last summer, during the Obama campaign; this week's mega-conference in San Francisco, SoCap09, convenes 800-plus social entrepreneurs bent on using social media to invent a new economy—one focused more directly on global problem-solving. "Americans are hungry to engage," says Jonathan Greenblatt, a SoCap presenter and president of All for Good, an open source platform that exists to press more people into service, and brands are only too happy to oblige.

The biggest driver of this shift toward mobilization, though, is not commerce—nor altruism. Historians and futurists suggest it's more about our increasing discomfort with the mass proximity we may now feel to communities and classes of people that previously lived outside our direct spheres of experience or influence. Thanks to social media, says Greenblatt, the old buffer zones of neglect or disengagement are shrinking—fast. "We have never been nor felt so adjacent to others," he told a group of online activists Friday at Mashable's Summer of Social Good conference in Manhattan. With mass globalization, we can see the same brands being advertised in central Dubai as in Manhattan; our closest neighbors are more likely now to be found online, everything can be googled, and we have never been so mobile. "There is more computing power in our Blackberries than there was in the control room in Houston that put a man on the moon," Greenblatt says.

All of this, of course, presents both opportunity and burden. "In a networked world where everyone is adjacent and everything can be known, we are seeing increasing evidence of the inequities around us," Greenblatt says. "When you are actually adjacent to these people—the have-nots (and when the have-nots know what we have)—it puts a burden on the 'haves' [in society]."

Indeed, says Greenblatt and others, we are compelled to invent new alternatives. "Twestival? What was that but a self-organized swarm?" Scott Henderson of Media Sauce told attendees at Mashable's event. "It's just the beginning." [Mark Pesce (see Collision Course) predicts a dangerous time ahead, with new, Web-strong "adhocracies" eroding—like sand against rock—our traditional systems and institutions.]

For SoCap's part, many attendees heading for San Francisco this week believe there is, already, a new "economy of integrity" in the making—fueled by social media. "It's like shoots growing out of the ground," Greenblatt says. "It's giving us different answers than the ones we've heard before to the questions we are facing" as a society. Think Zipcar, he says—the Netflix for cars. Or Living Homes, a Los Angeles-based construction business that is building homes that generate more power than they consume. Or Tom's Shoes, which will donate a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. Or Revolution Foods, which is offering healthier meals to kids around the nation as an alternative to junk food in public schools. "This new economy of integrity is animated by these ethical brands driving values and creating values, and social media will allow this economy of integrity to take off," Greenblatt says. Social media, he says, will both "cohere this moment of opportunity and catalyze it...We have opportunities before us that were never before possible."

"Social media is not just about reading a story online and deciding whether to reddit or propeller it or digg it. This is noise. Noise. For me, social media is Wikipedia, with 10 million members all across the planet with a mission to be the repository of human knowledge, accessible to every person alive. It's Twitter and what happened in Iran. Did Twitter change the course of that election? Maybe not. But far more significantly, it changed forever how Iranians think of themselves. Twitter didn't change the outcome now... But it will."

For more on SoCap, check out this interview with Kevin Jones, a co-founder of the conference, which runs September 1-3. To follow it on Twitter, the hashtag is #SOCAP09.

—By Marcia Stepanek

(Illustration, Net Working, by Miroslaw Pieprzyk for

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Missed Connections

The digital and physical worlds get reconciled beautifully in Sophie Blackall's five-month-old blog, Missed Connections, in which Blackall uses her skills as an artist to illustrate online "missed connections" ads from Craigslist New York. Her subjects are people trying to reconnect digitally with strangers they just saw or met in passing somewhere—at a diner, in a subway car, on the rooftop at a party in Greenpoint. New York magazine's August 10-17 Approval Matrix called Blackall's blog both "highbrow" and "brilliant"; cites her renderings of "chance encounters, momentary glimmers of hope for a new friend or lover..."

["Uptown 3 train: If not for your noisy tambourine, I would not have seen you. Your green skirt looked terrible but that leather jacket makes you look just right. I was the attractive guy sitting to your left just before you got off."]

Here's another:

The Craigslist ads "are like digital messages in a bottle," says the Adelaide-born Blackall, who illustrates childrens' books from her Brooklyn studio. "I've lived in New York for 10 years now but still, it's fascinating to me that millions of people cross paths every day and occasionally, something happens that puts them into the immediacy of each others' lives for just a moment. Always, in these ads, there seems a deep hope that this might be the one connection, that if found again, could change their lives forever. I think the Web can be very hopeful in that way." Here's more from our recent conversation with Blackall:

Why this, and why now?
I was looking for an apartment on Craigslist and stumbled across this section for missed connections. It was so riveting, that I found myself trawling through page after page. One woman posted an ad for a 'misconnection' that hadn't happened yet. She was planning to have one in the future. She named a time and a specific place, one block on Second Avenue between 9th and 8th streets; she announced that she was going to be walking a dog on a leash and be wearing a black t-shirt. She wrote that she was going to see if anyone would show up and become her misconnection. I followed up; I kept reading the missed connections list to see if I’d see anything back from her, but I never did. What I did see were two posts from people who had been there but didn’t see her. Maybe she didn't show up. Who knows? Maybe she was sitting in a café across the street somewhere, watching to see if anybody would bother.

Which are some of your favorites?
I love the one where someone wrote, “Seeking girl who bit me TWICE last night while we were dancing.” It cracks me up—the fact this girl bit this guy twice but he couldn’t remember her name.

Scrabble Tattoo on Roof (above, top) is another favorite, from an ad placed by a man who was clearly besotted with a girl he met at a party on a rooftop in Greenpoint. He saw her while she was sitting on top of the stairs, and he asked her if she always sat in a circle of Asian girls. He also asked, Did she always sit at the top of the stairs, so everyone who would pass her would fall in love with her? The guy had gone downstairs to get her a piece of cake and then, when he got back, she’d disappeared.

Did you always want to be an illustrator?
My burning ambition when I was 12 was to illustrate a
New Yorker cover. I'd papered all of my bedroom walls with New Yorker covers that belonged to my father; he was an Englishman and one of a handful of people in Australia at the time who subscribed. As soon as he'd bring the magazines home, I'd rip off the covers and tack them up on the walls in my room, like wallpaper, and he'd be furious because I'd never ask first."

For more of Blackall's work, see her Web site.

—By Marcia Stepanek

(All illustrations courtesy of Sophie Blackall)

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Monday, August 24, 2009


Urban Dictionary defines “slacktivism”—a portmanteau combining the words slacker and activism—as the digital equivalent of lip service, “the act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.” Wikipedia cites these prime examples: the signing of Internet petitions, wearing wristbands with political messages, joining a Facebook cause group, posting issue-oriented YouTube videos, and taking part in short-term boycotts such as the recent Earth Hour, an online event held March 28 asking people all over the world to turn off or dim their nonessential lights for an hour to urge government action against climate change.

Not slacker-y enough for you? How about the move by many Twitter users in June to turn their profile photos green, so as to show solidarity with Iranian protesters? “I find it utterly baffling,” wrote Australian blogger Raena Jackson Armitage on, “that people believed that doing this would really, actually make a difference to anyone other than to themselves and their own fuzzy, warm feelings. ‘Oh yeah, I’m a part of the Iranian revolution. Time for a soy latte!’”

Increasingly, though, as social media become more strategic and new media emerge from the husk of the old, slacktivism is becoming a four-letter word, a kind of derogatory shorthand used by people to debate (and mischaracterize) online activism in general. (Evgeny Morozov, in a May 19 post called The Brave New World of Slacktivism, said that while the Web has made it easier to be an activist, the surge in virtual involvement might be keeping things from happening in the real world.)

The latest scuffle over slacktivism broke out this past week, on the Progressive Exchange listserv, one of the largest and most influential email groups for progressive activist leaders. The discussion arose in response to two pieces: a short blog post by Tamar Schiffman on the Global Fund for Children’s Web site questioning the effectiveness of social media as a cause-booster, and the reposting of Morozov’s piece in Foreign Policy.

“I’m super uncomfortable with the term slacktivist,” member Michael Connery fired off in response. “Along with Tom Friedman’s Generation Q, (slacktivism) is a term that has primarily been used to tar and feather Millennials for not conforming to a Baby-Boomer view of activism.” Second, Connery said, the term “implicitly ignores all the real-world activism that today’s young people do in their communities, as well as in the political realm.” And third, people who use the term “slacktivism…are not convincing anyone or doing anything constructive by painting with such a broad brush a generation or a style of activism.”

Ted Fickes, another member of the exchange, suggested “there is no ‘right (or wrong)’ way to do social change or do activism” and suggested that people who use the term “slacktivism” either don’t understand the Cause Web—or fear it. “Technology … can be overwhelming,” Fickes wrote, chiefly for “most/many advocacy groups that don’t really have their own ‘theory of change’ and are often blindly shooting away, online and off, without much strategy, hoping something hits and at least building a list (of activist emails) along the way.”

Madeline Stanionis, CEO of the San Francisco-based Watershed Company, an online advocacy and fundraising consulting firm, said that “slacktivism is totally whacktivism.” In the case of two Watershed clients (ACORN and Planned Parenthood), “traditional activism cannot respond quickly enough on a national level to deflect a concentrated, full-force hit job by the right-wing noise machine,” she wrote. Only rapid-response teams comprised of online supporters have been able to fend off the types of attacks being waged today on these groups. “The assertion that online activists are slacktivists with no influence is bunk,” she says.

Even danah boyd, a social media researcher for Microsoft and a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, weighed in at one point. Boyd suggested that people who keep bashing Twitter and other forms of social media are underestimating the simple power of these platforms to convene large groups of people around any number of concerns:

I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It’s good for society. And what they’re doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness. They want to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling, even when co-presence isn’t viable. They want to share their state of mind and status so that others who care about them feel connected. It’s a back-and-forth that makes sense if only we didn’t look down at it from outer space. Of course it looks alien. Walk into any typical social encounter between people you don’t know and it’s bound to look a bit alien, especially if those people are demographically different than you.

To be sure, it’s doubtful the slacktivism debate will simmer down any time soon. (There are at least a few panels being proposed on the topic for SXSW 2010.)

But here’s an idea, says Connery: Why not stop using the term?

There's no question that some social media strategies don’t always work (Project Houdini) and that some efforts, like Twestival and, continue to struggle with scale. In addition, some high-profile advocacy groups like Kiva and are still stumbling over new ways to manage transparency: at Kiva, a coalition of lenders is angry at the microlending site’s decision to start offering loans to small businesses in the United States, and their “revolt” online took founders by surprise. “It was stronger than we thought,” c0-founder Matt Flannery told the Mercury News. “(It was) a little more visceral and angry”—prompting Flannery and Kiva President Premal Shah to acknowledge the contoversy last month and admit the jury is still out on the U.S. program. [Meanwhile, at, founder Tori Tuncan was slammed with a similarly angry challenge—in this case, over her use of children’s faces and real-life stories online.]

But online activism is just getting started. For every survey that says Twitter is mostly irrelevant babble, there is an online fundraiser that’s using microblogging to raise tens of thousands of new dollars to the cause; for every 10 Facebook causes, there are at least a few new private Nings comprised of thousands of new members able to help each other raise money, support, and engagement around their needs in ways that no traditional organization could make possible. And thanks to the mobile Web, on-demand volunteering is just around the corner; the recent Facebook purchase of social media aggregator FriendFeed just made the potential for peer-to-peer cause activism much richer—and easier.

Make no mistake: there have always been legions of people of all stripes who prefer to “do” by simply writing a check or pushing a send button. But social media-leveraged activism? It’s many-to-many, online and off, a form of self-organizing and engagement that has nothing to do with playing small.

Still not convinced? Just ask Tamar Schiffman, whose post questioning online activism on Global Fund for Children helped to kick off this latest scuffle over slacktivism. Even Schiffman now acknowledges a shift in the conversation. “I would be heartbroken to see an end to sit-ins, canvassing, rallies and picket lines,” she wrote in a follow-up post on the Progressive Exchange:

These things inspire and bring communities together at the face-to-face, neighborly level. However, we can’t ignore the direction that online networks are taking us, and that they have value. I think many of the peers in my sector are reluctant to really take the plunge by igniting online communities and taking online actions, but I think that if you don’t take this active (not ‘slacktive’) audience into account, in several years, you will be standing outside at a rally of four people, while the dynamic and inspiring work is being done online.

—By Marcia Stepanek

(This piece first appeared on and is being re-posted here with permission)

(Illustration: Aviators are Awesome, by doodlemachine for

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Humor Bites

Here's the trailer for Michael Moore's upcoming film, on class warfare in America. Called Capitalism: A Love Story, the film is scheduled to open October 2—just in time for the holidays.

Say what you will about Moore: he wields humor like a blowtorch, forcing us to look hard at ourselves. [Note to cause filmmakers: Lighten up?] Who knew the recession could be so entertaining?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Here's the latest bit of Twitter-bashing that's roiling the social media/social advocacy crowd: U.S. market researcher Pear Analytics' short-term study of Twitter labels 40% of the messages sent over the microblogging service "pointless babble." Only about 8.7% of tweets, Pear says, have "value" as they pass along news of interest to others.

It's been enough to prompt some high-profile social media experts and advocates to rush to the defense of microblogging (again). danah boyd, a social media researcher for Microsoft and a fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, weighed in with a post shared on the Progressive Exchange network:

"I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It's good for society. And what they're doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness. They want to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling, even when co-presence isn't viable. They want to share their state of mind and status so that others who care about them feel connected. It's a back-and-forth that makes sense if only we didn't look down at it from outer space. Of course it looks alien. Walk into any typical social encounter between people you don't know and it's bound to look a bit alien, especially if those people are demographically different than you."

Josh Nelson, with The Hatcher Group, a communications and nonprofit consulting firm in Washington D.C., suggested on Facebook that "if you scanned thousands of random emails or phone calls, it would probably be mostly irrelevant 'babble' as well." Tomorrow's headline? "Ninety-five-plus percent of all telephone conversations are irrelevant to outside listeners," Nelson wrote.

Meanwhile, Elana D. Leoni, the online membership coordinator of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, added in a post, also shared on

I think it's all about how selective you are when you decide to follow someone. I run my company's Twitter account and I've found Twitter to be one of the most effective ways to reach out to experts, get opinions, promote our content, and do some great market research.

Still not convinced of Twitter's power? Hollywood studios are on edge because blistering, critical word-of-mouth via Twitter and other social networks is cutting—from days to mere hours—the time during which word of mouth can make or break a film at the box office. Bruno and G.I. Joe, for example, experienced an unexpectedly fast tumble within their opening weekends. "People will be Twittering during the opening credits—and leaving when they don't like the film," Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures told The Washington Post.

Twitter can also help to save a production. Just ask Damian Bazadona, president of Situation Interactive, an online marketing and advertising firm. Bazadona was part of the team behind the novel marketing, via Twitter, of the Broadway play, Next to Normal. In early May, six weeks after the show opened, the production began what New York Times contributor Andrew Adam Newman said was, by all accounts, a Broadway first: over Twitter, a special version of the show began to be tweeted out to people, one line from one character at a time—over 35 days. "About a week into the N2N tweetstream, Next to Normal had 30,000 followers; when the show ended June 7, about 145,000 had signed up. Then, as the cast began texting followers, their numbers continued to grow, recently topping 550,000," Newman wrote. "...According to the tracking site Twitterholic, N2Nbroadway is ranked 210th, attracting more Twitter followers than celebrities like Paris Hilton and Stephen Colbert and brands like Starbucks."

Bardona told Newman: "You wouldn't go to a social event and start selling someone something. The content itself was doing the selling for us, so we didn't need to bang someone over the head and say 'Here's how to buy tickets.' That would have smelled so advertising."

What do you think? Is Twitter mostly uncontrollable babble—or a new way to find power and safety in numbers?

—Marcia Stepanek

(Illustration by Jayesh for

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Saturday, August 15, 2009


Why does the Woodstock music festival, held 40 years ago this weekend, still matter? Perhaps it's because it was "half a million strong"—mega-viral before flashmobs and the Web. "Woodstock had to have been one of the earliest examples of a viral event—long pre-dating blast faxes, mass emails, Web ads, the blogosphere, texting and tweeting," says Robert Goldstein, NPR's music librarian."Somehow, 40 years ago, word spread from person to person about a fabulous outdoor rock festival at a farm a few hours outside of New York City."

Woodstock also was a community of like-minded souls formed at the edges of the cultural mainstream. Today, there is no mainstream, and crowds are more apt to form digitally; in 1969, crowds were only physical—defined less by their collaborative networking potential than by their power to disrupt the status quo. Today, hundreds of thousands of communities are forming and communicating with each other, quickly, over the Web. Back in the summer of 1969, crowd-to-crowd communication did not exist and was beyond the realm of the imaginable. Woodstock was the original flashmob, shocking in both its size and its ability to rapidly self-organize. "This was a spontaneous, pre-Web community of the anti-Establishment, a kind of peaceful protest and celebration all wrapped into one," says Henry Diltz, a photographer who captured most of the festival in a series of iconic images.

Diltz also told the BBC in a recent interview that Woodstock's crowd-power gave the anti-Establishment a platform that signaled a change in the American spirit. One of Diltz's most vivid memories is of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner:

"It was a Monday morning, there were only about 20,000 to 30,000 people left—most (concert-goers) had gone home already. It was very startling to hear (Hendrix play) the national anthem that morning; there had been such mixed feelings about it, our country, patriotism. The song in a way represented the (Vietnam) war machine, yet most of people who came to Woodstock were peace-and-love hippies who didn't want to kill anybody. But then to have Hendrix play that song? It was amazing. When you heard the sound effects of dive bombs and machine guns in Hendrix' playing, it reminded you that the (Vietnam) War was still going on...

...What was so amazing was that sound, in the still morning air, of the single string, the single instrument playing. The sound was so sharp and vibrant, and it went out and echoed against the mountains and came back again. And when you looked out onto the field—which had been a green alfalfa field five days earlier—now it was just a muddy hillside and looked very much like a battleground. Somebody had stuck a branch in the ground with an American flag flying and there it was, out there in that muddy field.
It was just a transfixing moment."

Here's Hendrix in that moment, below:

(Poster: Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969)

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Friday, August 14, 2009


One of the best examples of "meaning-driven business"—the new catch-phrase for corporate America's use of cause advocacy and social media for social change—remains Dove soap's Campaign for Real Beauty. The viral ad campaign features full-figured women and unmade-up girls in a noble quest to dust off an old brand and challenge the culture's definition of beauty—reaping a double-digit growth in Dove sales in the process. In case you missed it, here's Evolution (2006), one of the viral videos from that global social cause campaign by Ogilvy & Mather and Dove's Self Esteem Fund that's still making the rounds of the social Web, with thanks to Emily Lonigro (the designer of this site), who posted it on her Facebook page this morning:

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dead Zones

Alan Berger spends a lot of time poking around some of the most dangerously polluted places in the world, from the slums of Mumbai to the toxic slag pools of the American West. But where others might simply see cyanide deposits and smelly canals, Berger—a new-wave landscape architect and urbanist—sees a clearing.

Berger—the founder of P-REX, the Project for Reclamation Excellence at MIT—has a vast but profoundly singular goal: to change the world, literally, by altering the landscape.

Berger’s vision goes far beyond beautification. Where others might simply recommend that polluting farms and factories be shut down—or destroyed lands be returned to their natural, prettier state—Berger specializes in creating whole new ecosystems out of places that humans have left for dead, either from neglect or design.

Some places are so environmentally ravaged, he says, “you can never go back.” Thanks to new computer modeling technologies and newly available environmental data—from the spread of pine beetle devastation in the American West to the size of the hypoxic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—Berger and his team don't have to. Instead, they design new ecosystems that use nature to heal itself.

Berger approaches each new project like a Digital Age detective: Using low-angle aerial photography, maps, computer models combined with complex data sets and other graphic evidence, Berger visually reveals evidence of landscape waste—dead or under-utilized land areas—and how they interact with the environment and man-made patterns of behavior over time. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer technology can, he says, stack information in a new way “to see relationships that the normal visual or physical experience in the landscape wouldn’t be able to reveal.” Then Berger will, in some cases, work to redirect the flow of water, move hills around, build islands where there were none and plant new species to absorb pollution, create more natural artificial landscapes that can ultimately sustain themselves.

Case in point: Berger's Pontine Marshes project along the Mediterranean coast of Italy southwest of Rome is attempting to re-create a natural wetland in a valley through which some of Italy’s most seriously polluted waters now pass; he aims to infuse this area with a careful, complex mix of the right kinds of plants, dirt, stones, and drainage channels, to serve as a natural filter through which severely contaminated waters can flow on their way through coastal residential areas and back out to the sea. “This area is so ecologically out of balance,” Berger says, that “romantic notions of a vacation landscape playground just south of Rome will be tempered by the very real pollution problems expanding there.” Berger told a New York Times reporter last fall: “You can’t restore [this area]. You have to go forward, to set this place on a new path.”

Besides the marshes project, Berger is working with the French government to analyze landscape waste around Paris; he also is involved in a 2,400-acre reclamation project in the French Gulch area around the community of Breckenridge, Colorado, that is part of a larger initiative to clean up an abandoned lead-zinc-copper-sulfide and gold ore mine as part of a Superfund cleanup underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Key to all of his work is the discovery of how life has adapted to spoiled environments; the French Gulch project is an example. “When non-native trout species were introduced to the mountain streams there (as part of an earlier reclamation effort),” Berger says, “no one realized that they would quickly out-compete the native trout species" and push them onto the endangered species list: Berger discovered that the polluted mine drainage waters are actually protecting the native species from being destroyed by the fish newcomers. "Clean this up and the native species will not survive," says Berger.

Berger is first to admit that especially internationally, what he does is still not universally embraced but he is optimistic. “I think what we are witnessing today is a renewal of landscape’s intellectual and critical dimensions,” he says. “Humans will continue to consume and abuse [the environment], but if we can find ways to coordinate those activities with information technology and the dynamics of ecology, that will be a true civilization-scale advancement.”

—Marcia Stepanek

(Illustration: Viridian for

(NOTE: This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

For Mom

Monday, August 3, 2009


Meet Milo, a completely digital boy who can recognize human faces, voices and emotions. Developed by Peter Molyneux and his team at the digital game creator, Lionhead Studios, Milo represents the latest in human-machine interaction technology—a big step in artificial intelligence that will not just revolutionize computer gaming. It's also sure to influence the way people communicate across the metaverse—as well as offline.

Molyneux told the Webzine Eurogamer during the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo, where Milo was first unveiled, that the digital boy represents Lionhead's—and Microsoft's—efforts to push the boundaries of artificial intelligence. "The first thing we did was go round [to speak with] all the Microsoft people—the handwriting recognition people, the facial recognition people, the motion recognition people [involved in developing new upgrades for the Xbox 360]," Molyneux said. "We brought the technology together and put it in there. ...Milo can recognize what you're wearing. If he notices you've got dark bags under your eyes, he will say, 'You look tired today.'"

Milo is part of Project Natal—the code name for "controller-free gaming and entertainment experience" for the Xbox 360. The add-on peripheral lets users control and interact with the Xbox 360 without a game controller, but rather through gestures, spoken commands, and presented objects and images. A release date has yet to be announced for the upgrade, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says the technology will be incorporated into a new Xbox 360, due for release some time in 2010.

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