If you know me, you know I love robots. So engineering them in to a participatory comms solution is going to push all my hot buttons. It seems to be working for others too, as there's a fair bit of pick-up on places like PSFK and Wired.
Voicebox describes itself as "a data visualisation project, curating young people’s views on issues that matter, visualising the findings, and then setting the data free for you to do the same."
It's a project from V to demonstrate to politicians, the media and everyone else that 16 to 25-year-olds care about stuff. And are articulate about those things that matter most to them. And they have an API, so if you can do clever things visualising data, that's nice.
I especially love how Sidekick Studios, the people who built the robot, describe themselves as a social innovation company using the internet to fix problems and make life more useful. As Voicebox and Timetable would suggest, they are interested in the internet of things, and a world where there's no seam between the digital and physical worlds.
That seems to be the best way to create things that are comms, product, service and community all wrapped up in one. At the moment I hate finding myself at a loading bar, Flash-heavy adverwebby site, because it's so of the internet and not of life. You turn the power off and it's gone. Whereas things like Voicebox allow you to do something to the real world via the computer. And this physical expression of yourself is still out there, somewhere, when you shut down for the evening.
Maybe it's also because projects like this are also quite defiant of analytics. It's quite hard to quantify the true meaning of someone's self-expression, no matter how good your social media metrics. So your criteria for success are completely up in the air. When you're dealing with what matters most to people, that feels important somehow.