Microsoft is seeking to become the first limb of the future AllThing (a political body that consisted of the voting minds of an entire population seen in Dan Simmons’s Hyperion) by putting the ability to do live polling in the hands of Xbox LIVE users during the Presidential debates. Console owners will be given the advantage of being able to directly interact with a voting system while the debate progresses using their controllers and Kinects in order to cast votes. In the past this sort of system would have used a telephone dial in system or some other devices in order to tally current audience mood towards different candidates.
We’ve all seen it—the weird blue or red lines ticking across the bottom of the screen alongside candidates names. We are a social species who love data, and we especially like to know how large groups of other people feel about things. Now, with Xbox LIVE, we’ll be able to see in real time what an entire audience of video game players think about a live event.
According to an article in The Verge, Microsoft has partnered with several marketing and polling research companies such as Rock the Vote; YouGov, a market research firm; Face the Facts USA, a nonpartisan coalition; and NBC News.
Jose Pinero, senior director of marketing and public relations for Microsoft, outlined the project as an innovative resource for building a visualization of current mood and interest for the Xbox LIVE audience using their network and these partnerships to see the political engine in a way we never have before.
Video game consoles are an excellent place to gather polling information casually
The Nintendo Wii had a cute little gimmick app built into its interface called “Wii Vote” that solicited users to submit questions and answer a few questions nightly. This slowly generated a map of Wii users and what sorts of questions they answered and the answers they gave—and even let friends look at how they stacked up against one another on the answers to particular questions. While it wasn’t live or oriented towards a scheme similar to Xbox LIVE’s venture, it was one of the ways that I saw an interactive technology take an audience and turn it into a strangely self-reflective community.
No doubt, when President Obama and his opponent Romney go head to head at the podiums there will be potentially hundreds of thousands of gamers in the audience watching with anticipation, and that’s where Microsoft expects to clip on their electrodes.
The real amazement that I have for this technology choice is sussed out by the article in this section,
Microsoft is looking to turn Xbox Live users from mere viewers into “participants in the process.” Xbox Live will broadcast the presidential debates and allow users to contribute to a nationwide discourse on their Xbox 360 consoles. People watching on Xbox Live can use their controllers or Kinect sensors to give a thumbs up or thumbs down as a debate progresses, and YouGov will compile that data to provide a real-time graph of Xbox Live users’ impressions of each candidate. YouGov will also provide specific questions during debates, another way for people to get an idea of how their fellow Americans are responding to the candidates.
Although in most living rooms I don’t quite trust the Kinect sensor to accurately track particular gestures, I’m sure that a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down should be easily recognizable and trigger an appropriate response. I am almost curious to see the thousands of homes with a Kinect with a few people on the couch furiously gesturing like Siskel and Ebert during the live broadcast of a Presidential debate.
With the availability of an already networked culture of gamers who use their Xbox LIVE for more than just gaming it’s certainly possible that a massive audience can easily be built up for the Presidential debates. Already, Xbox LIVE has been carefully positioned by Microsoft to be a preeminent Internet-enabled streaming device (that’s step one) and being a video game console that networks with servers, other consoles, and is constantly taking interactive information from players it’s already positioned to be used to cast interactive votes (that’s step two.)
Since the Xbox LIVE is easily updated, all Microsoft will need to do is push an update to the consoles before the event and advertise on the very system to rustle up a potentially broad audience who may already be looking forward to the election and the upcoming portions of the democratic process.
Free to all to use, but only Gold subscribers will be able to enjoy the tickers
From coverage on the subject, the voting portion of this app will be available to all Xbox LIVE users, but content produced by it (i.e. the real-time audience mood feeds and visualization) will be restricted to Gold subscribers.
This is probably the best way to run it, although it would be kind of Microsoft to leak some of the information to the non-Gold subscribers to that they can see what their efforts are part of. It seems to me that the mildest version of it will probably be available to everyone; but the highly focused, complex, or highly visualized break downs would be kept behind a subscription wall.
Pinero lauds the Xbox audience saying, “We believe in the power of the Xbox Live community,” and pointing out that he wants to “harness the power of the platform” to enhance the potential of the electorate; but restricting too much of the information from the electorate to just Gold subscribers may in fact blunt how useful this could be overall to everyone in the nation.
I hope that Microsoft does the patriotic thing and opens up a broad variety of statistics to even home users. No doubt they’ll make their money back on marketing and political organizations who want access to the big data analysis from the electorate and they’ll no doubt pay bigger bucks for that than could be siphoned out of the average American Xbox player.