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New Year\’s Eve Party in Second Life

I just noticed on Massively that there\’s an Australia-friendly New Year\’s party in Second Life:

* 4:00AM – 6:00AM SLT – Sydney/Melbourne New Year\’s Eve Ball
* 2:00PM – 3:00PM SLT – Live Charity Auction
* 3:00PM – 5:00PM SLT – London New Year\’s Eve Ball
* 8:00PM – 10:00PM SLT – New York New Year\’s Eve Ball
* 10:00PM – 11:00PM SLT – Live Charity Auction
* 11:00PM – 1:00AM SLT – San Francisco New Year\’s Eve Ball

Check the details here and all proceeds go to an excellent cause – The Gardens of Hope.

Update: Linden Lab have a running commentary on countries hitting 2008.

Study shows virtual sport no substitute – yet

A recently released study shows that physically active (read: Nintendo Wii) computer-based gaming did burn more energy than more passive gaming options. However, the level of increased activity wasn\’t enough to meet the physical activity guidelines.

That result is no great surprise but the researchers were encouraging of the move toward more physically active gaming as a way of promoting broader physical activity measures. Personally, I\’d love to see a way of linking physical activity to virtual worlds. Imagine the kilometres covered if you had to actually walk around World of Warcraft or Second Life? This has been done once but there\’s no official development of such options that I\’m aware of.

As far as further research, I\’d be interested in analysis of the musculoskeletal benefits of more active gaming – that is, how much better is more active gaming for posture, bone strength and muscle flexibility? I\’d wager the results would show that pretty much anything is better than slouching on the sofa playing passive console games. The health impact of virtual worlds is a keystone issue. The bulk of work to date has been on the mental health aspects but expect greater scrutiny of the physical as virtual worlds grow in popularity.

Thanks to Tony Walsh for the heads-up

Second Life down on 3rd January

If you\’re planning a major Second Life event this coming Thursday 3rd January around 5am AEDT, then be aware that Linden Lab have announced a grid-wide rolling restart to fix some crashing issues and to further implement their age verification requirements.

At least it\’s occurring at an Australia-friendly time.

Social Science and virtual worlds – 2008 is the year

If you\’re kicking back and planning your intellectual stimulation for next year, this post on Terra Nova is worth a look. Education and social science have strong communities in virtual worlds, particularly Second Life.

We\’ll be covering developments in those areas as always. If you know of some great work being done, let us know!

Australia and Virtual Worlds – 2008 predictions

It wouldn\’t be the end of a calendar year without making some predictions for the coming twelve months. Here\’s a handful of predictions – some are fairly safe, others push the envelope a little:

1. Australia will see its first legal action in regards to a virtual world – Second Life is likely to be the battlefield and it\’s likely to involve an intellectual property dispute or financial regulation issues.

2. Second Life viability will remain under question – there\’s not likely to be a sudden improvement in the technical issues confronting the platform. The reality for Australian users of Second Life is at least another 6 months of laggy virtual world experience. There\’s been rumours of a deal between Linden Lab and Telstra to locate Second Life servers locally – we can only hope. Expect lots of negative mainstream and Second Life blogosphere press if the status quo remains.

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3. VastPark will flourish – we\’ve covered the VastPark virtual world platform a few times and its evolution has been promising. If the platform delivers what it promises during 2008, much interest should be garnered. I wouldn\’t be surprised to see VastPark acquired by one of the bigger players. Vastpark\’s Australian operations make this one we\’ll be watching closely.

4. Google will not launch a virtual world – they may have launched OpenSocial and continued to develop Google Earth but 2008 will not be the year of Google truly entering the virtual world domain.

5. There\’ll be failures aplenty – World of Warcraft will remain the dominant gaming MMO and of the swathe of launches touted, some will obviously fail. Claims are being made about the Conan and Warhammer franchises making some serious inroads. I\’m not convinced that either will be enormously successful although neither lack significant backing and associated marketing power. And it\’s not as if Blizzard will be sitting on their hands – the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft is on its way.

6. Australian business will remain conservative – 2007 saw the entrance of corporations like Telstra, the ABC and the REA Group into Second Life. I doubt there\’ll be as many large presences launched in 2008. There\’s still major skepticism out there about virtual worlds as a business tool – it remains only a research and development option in the eyes of business and 2008 is unlikely to change that. One disclaimer – if Google do launch a virtual world product, then all bets are off. On a related note – I predict Telstra\’s SydSim development in Second Life will not cut the mustard for larger businesses and for those that do set up in that location, there\’ll be consternation of how little traffic is generated.

7. Mainstream media will continue to get it wrong – aside from some of the more savvy technology journalists, mainstream media reporting on virtual world developments will remain hit and miss. 2007 had some real clangers and you can expect that to continue.

Most importantly, what are your predictions for the coming year? Make a comment here and see how right or wring you are when we revisit the predictions in a year\’s time.

Virtual Africa starts delivering for real Africa

I don\’t usually post in full a press release from an entity within a virtual world like Second Life, but the information below is worth replicating in full. It\’s good news on a small scale but if the growth in use of virtual worlds continues at a pace predicted in some quarters, then larger results for the real world may be seen.

\”Virtual Africa\’s Second Life initiative brings bicycles to South Africans in need

CAPE TOWN, December 14, 2007. The developers of Virtual Africa in Second Life began selling virtual African bicycles a month ago and have sold nearly 150 bikes to date – less than 20 bikes shy of financing the purchase of a real world bicycle. The project is now being ramped up to include the ability for residents to purchase a bicycle in the real world through inworld kiosks to directly benefit a South African in need.

The developers of Virtual Africa in Second Life began selling virtual African bicycles a month ago and have sold nearly 150 bikes to date – less than 20 bikes shy of financing the purchase of a real world bicycle. The project is now being ramped up to include the ability for residents to purchase a bicycle in the real world through inworld kiosks to directly benefit a South African in need.

“Buying a real bike can vastly improve the life of a South African needing transportation to a job, and it only costs $130 US to make this happen,” explained Dorette Steenkamp (Alanagh Recreant in Second Life), co-executive director of Uthango Social Investments, a South African charity working directly in various urban and rural communities with people live in poverty. “For just L$41,700, Second Life residents can purchase a real world bicycle for a real world family.”

All Uthango bike kiosks give residents the option to purchase a real world bicycle. The new initiative is the second phase of the [e]bizikile fundraising drive to explore RL/SL integration. Inworld, residents can still purchase virtual African bicycles through the kiosks for L$250. The bicycles are designed by Shukran Fahid of !BooPeRFunK! and can be used to participate in a grid-wide virtual bike-a-thon in 2008.

“It takes the sale of 167 virtual bicycles to just buy one real world bike,” said co-executive director Erna Sittig who is Enakai Ultsch in Second Life. “We hope residents will help us meet the greater needs by purchasing the real world bike in addition to – or instead of – a virtual one”.

The [e]bizikile fundraising event brings attention to how bicycles fit into the economy in African cities and rural towns. It is combined with a dynamic FLICKR website, with more than 100 photos of African bicycles.

The [e]bizikile fundraising event is supported by Charitable Hearts, one of the largest charity groups in Second Life advocating for the work of a few selected charities. The e]bizikile African bicycles will be available from Uthango’s office in Second Life or from dedicated affiliated businesses. Web-enabled vendors donated by Hippo Technologies will dispense the bicycles. Free vendors are still available to interested companies, organizations or individual landowners in Second Life.

For more information about the virtual and real world African bicycles, contact Enakai Ultsch. Second Life residents can also join the [e]bizikile group or IM Alanagh Recreant for further details. To visit the Uthango offices in Second Life, go to http://slurl.com/secondlife/Sunset%20Commerce/60/82/22/.

ABOUT UTHANGO™

Uthango Social Investments is a registered charity located in Cape Town, South Africa. It is the first African-based company and NGO officially in Second Life, where it will launch VIRTUAL AFRICA in 2008. Read more about the developers of Virtual Africa on http://slafrica.wordpress.com.

Uthango Social Investments is an investment and development company specialising in sustainable poverty eradication through innovation. It focuses on the digital divide, micro-enterprise development, intercultural dialogue, crime prevention, community mental health, and infrastructure development.

http://www.uthango.org/\”

(see our previous coverage of Virtual Africa)

Another perspective on virtual worlds as time-wasters

A friend of mine in Second Life, Leyah Renegade, wrote an observation on \”wasting time\” in Second Life that struck me as being particularly prescient:

\”If you feel like you\’re already wasting time, SL is as good a way as any to waste time. And it just might inspire you to do some good things in RL, or you might meet some cool people, or even sell some art in RL.

I got into it mainly to play music, with the nice bonus of being able to hang out with some of the homies that I don\’t get to see often in RL. But now I\’m doing a couple of very worthwhile educational projects, which have also allowed me to develop my building and scripting skills to the point where I\’m now about to make quite a lot of real money messing around in SL. None of that would ever had happened if I\’d gone into SL with the intention of being \”productive,\” but I think I\’m coming out ahead of most people who do go in with that intent. Not that I would consider my time in SL \”wasted\” if the work thing had never happened, but it\’s funny how things like that often work.

I think if you\’re an artistic type, the ability to do things spontaneously and seemingly without purpose (\”wasting time\”) is actually extremely important, and it\’s those activities that often dictate the course of your life moreso than the more goal-directed activities that most people find necessary. And I think we\’re better off for that, frustrating as it may be to people with goals and deadlines. And SL is a perfect medium for doing completely spontaneous, imaginative things, as well as finding like minded people who \”get\” the need for that.\”

A fitting perspective on a significant day for many Second Life \”time wasters\” ;)