Blobjects are the period objects of our time. They are the physical products that the digital revolution brought to the consumer shelf.
Sterling goes on (via ‘gizmos’, the current state of the art) to introduce spime.
At the moment, you are end-using Gizmos. My thesis here, my prophesy to you, is that, pretty soon, you will be wrangling Spimes.
A Spime is a location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities
Meanwhile, to fill the gap between blobjects and spime, we have blogjects. Julian Bleecker’s ‘Manifesto for Networked Objects — Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things‘ introduces Blogjects, describing them as an “early ancestor” to spime. While spime is still speculative, Bleecker says
I can make Blogjects now because the semantics are immediately legible — objects, that blog. Tonight, I can go into my laboratory and begin to experiment with what a world might be like in which I co-occupy space with objects that blog.
Bleecker says there are three key characteristics of a blogject:
- Blogjects track and trace where they are and where they’ve been;
- Blogjects have self-contained (embedded) histories of their encounters and experiences
- Blogjects always have some form of agency — they can foment action and participate; they have an assertive voice within the social web.
The last point is important, and while he’s not expecting them to pass the Turing test, they need to interact. Good bloggers don’t ignore their comments; thats where most of the fun happens. In the same way, blogjects participate and converse both between themselves and with us.
The significance of the Internet of Things is not at all about instrumented machine-to-machine communication, or sensors that spew reams of data credit card transactions, or quantities of water flows, or records of how many vehicles passed a particular checkpoint along a highway. Those sensor-based things are lifeless, asocial recording instruments when placed alongside of the Blogject. … The social and political import of the Internet of Things is that things can now participate in the conversations that were previously off-limits to Things. … Things, once plugged into the Internet, will become agents that circulate food for thought, that “speak on” matters from an altogether different point of view, that lend a Thing-y perspective on micro and macro social, cultural, political and personal
If a blogject is an object that blogs, a tweetject is clearly an object that tweets (an intransitive verb: the act of using Twitter).
There are already lots of examples of objects using Twitter to interact with people, usually to report about the state of things in a convenient form. Botanicalls is an interesting project, aimed at “enhancing person-plant communication” using tools that can be used by people as well as plants. As a result, Pothos is a plant that knows when it needs watering (learn how to make your own).
Gareth Jones wrote about getting his laptop to tweet when Bluetooth devices come in and out of range. For a while that script was updating as gareth_laptop on Twitter. As long as some relevant mobile phones and laptops have Bluetooth enabled, there are some useful and interesting elements of personal presence detection here. Who is nearby? With some additional second-order agents running to work out what these devices are and what they mean (is Gareth at home? If he’s at work, who is nearby?).
Andy Stanford-Clark has an impressively complex home automation setup in his house on the Isle of Wight. It’s been online for a few years already, but has more recently been exposed via Twitter as andy_house. (Although Kelly raises bots as one of her Twitter pet peeves, she makes an exception for Andy’s house.) Andy also Twitter-enabled the Red Jet ferries which go to and from the Isle of Wight, where he lives.
There are many more tweetjects out there too.
There have been lots of weather bots on Twitter for a long time. Here’s one for Brighton and here are links to many more. Radio 1 is tweeting the playlist and summary information about listeners’ text messages. Mario Menti set up a lot more BBC bots too. Tom Morris hooked the various London tube lines up to Twitter. The Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank tweets what it’s pointing at (and it’s not alone). Tower Bridge lets us know when it’s opening and closing (and for what). The Heavens Above user updates Londoners with the times and directions of Iridium flares and International Space Station flybys over their city.
There are many more, and lots more will no doubt be added this year. Currently, most Twitter bots are one-directional. Things will get really interesting when more of them converse as well as simply report.
- In this post I’ve already linked to both Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling (and the 2004 SIGGRAPH speech), as well as Julian Bleecker’s ‘Manifesto for Networked Objects — Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things‘ essay.
- Everyware by Adam Greenfield is relevant, though it deals mainly with the near-term. Andy Piper has a review which you might find helpful.
- OpenSpime is a project to enable “individuals and corporations to better understand their environment, through the use of a series of GPS-enabled sensors”. Read Tish Shute’s introduction on UgoTrade too.