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The Watch - virtual worlds in the news

May 4, 2009

1. Federal Computer Weekly (USA) - Virtual learning gets second wind from Second Life. “Virtual-world technology is giving the idea of online training a second life in the federal government. A handful of agencies are turning to virtual worlds to create programs that bring together the best aspects of Internet-based training and the traditional classroom. Like standard online training, virtual-world software makes it possible for employees to take classes without leaving their desks, which saves on the time and costs associated with travel. And the new technology more closely replicates a classroom experience by creating a 3-D world in which students can interact with one another, the instructor and even objects in the environment.”

2. GigaOM (USA) - Can Sony’s Free Realms Compete With Club Penguin? “When it comes to MMOs, freemium worlds for kids are enormously popular and lucrative; for the most part, however, the major game publishers have done little to pursue this market. That changes this month with the launch of Free Realms, a colorful virtual world from Sony Online Entertainment. Since this new franchise is targeted at kids, including girls, Sony changed its approach from the ground up. The developer of the Everquest series and other MMORPGs aimed at the 18-34 gamer dude demographic threw out long-held assumptions about what made online worlds appealing, and used market research to learn what kids actually wanted. Turns out that instead of dramatic backstories and complex gameplay, kids want free-form fun and tools for telling their own stories.”

3. San Francisco Chronicle (USA) - Avatars, attorneys in new world of virtual law. “Like so many things, virtual law started with sex. Specifically, the first known legal case originating in a virtual world was over a bed designed for rolls in the virtual hay. Eros vs. Volkov Catteneo was not unlike business dustups that happen in the real world every day. One person created something and sold it, and another person allegedly copied it and sold cheap knockoffs. The only thing novel about this case is that the item in question was a piece of furniture made entirely of computer code, and it was bought and sold by 3-D avatars in Second Life, a virtual world run by San Francisco’s Linden Lab. Second Life user Kevin Alderman of Lutz, Fla., created the very interactive bed, which enabled avatars to engage in a range of activities (cuddling, more). But when another user started selling copies, Alderman hired real-life lawyer Francis Taney, who tracked down the real person behind the bed-copying avatar and secured a consent judgment from Florida’s U.S. District Court ordering him to quit.”

4. AFP (USA) - Virtual mobility for disabled wins Second Life prize. “An organization that lets people with disabilities virtually climb mountains and hike trails shared top honors in a first-ever Second Life prize for in-world projects improving real-world lives.
Virtual Ability and Studio Wikitecture, which designs buildings in the virtual world launched by Linden Lab in 2003, were declared co-winners of what is to be an annual prize at Second Life. The honor comes with 10,000 dollars (US) each in prize money. Virtual Ability helps people with disabilities use avatars to skydive, fish, mountain climb, hike and even fly in Second Life, the organization’s vice president David Ludwig says in a message posted online at virtualability.org.”

5. Gamasutra (USA) - Habbo Creator Sulake Planning PC Version of Bobba Mobile World. “Sulake, developer of the successful younger teen-oriented virtual world Habbo Hotel, recently launched Bobba, a virtual world for smartphones. But Sulake is not stopping there – speaking to Gamasutra, Sampo Karjalainen, Sulake co-founder and CCO mentioned that “We’re working on an iPhone version that should come out hopefully this summer,” which was recently hinted at - but the company will also bring the virtual world to PC. Bobba targets an older demographic than Habbo’s 13-16 year old main demographic. The virtual world, which is similar in concept to Habbo, currently runs on certain Nokia smartphones, and aims for a demographic of age 16 and older, providing a place where users can meet, date, party, work together, and otherwise network socially. ”

6. VentureBeat (USA) - Game and virtual world fundings reach $936.8 million in 2008. “This is a second update to our game and virtual worlds funding list. Here we’re adding new data from Jussi Laakkonen’s blog. Previously, we had updated to include data from Virtual World Management’s list, so the number is much bigger than we reported earlier. In 2008, VentureBeat chronicled lots of game and virtual world fundings. Our updated list now shows 112 game companies raised more than $936.8 million worth of venture capital and angel funds. This amount doesn’t include undisclosed fundings listed at the bottom. In 2007, game and virtual world companies raised $613 million, according to Jussi Laakkonen.”

7. Atlanta Journal Constitution (USA) - Kids are focus of video game company Elf Island. “iz Kronenberger and her husband Craig came up with the term “gaming for good” to describe the mission of their new company. The entrepreneurial Atlanta couple set out to create a video game company where kids could make a difference in the real world. They wanted to combine competitive game playing, social interaction and storytelling with social responsibility. They formed the company, called Elf Island, about two years ago. The site, ElfIsland.com, launched in April. Through one non-profit partnership, when kids help save a polar bear in the online world, they also help real polar bears.”

8. CIO (USA) - Red Hat to host Second Life-like virtual JBoss trade show. “Red Hat is stealing a page from the Second Life playbook and will host an online conference for users and partners of its JBoss Java-based middleware products in which people will have their own avatars and can virtually attend a conference as if it was a live trade show. The JBoss Virtual Experience is a Web-based conference through which JBoss executives and engineers will give the usual keynote speeches and host sessions just as they would at a regular trade show, according to Red Hat. The virtual conference, for which people can register now, also will have booth exhibits from JBoss, Red Hat and other event sponsors.”

9. CIO (USA) - Ignoring Web 2.0 Will Cost You. “Not wild about wikis? Not big on blogs? Not sold on Second Life? IT execs who ignore Web 2.0 collaboration technologies could be hurting their company’s bottom line. That’s the message from enterprise IT leaders and industry analysts who are convinced that Web 2.0 technologies are the real deal. “Not embracing social networking is like saying I’d rather hide my money under the mattress than put it in a bank. Companies make a big mistake when they prohibit these tools out of the sheer fear of what employees will say when they communicate with one another,” says Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president at Serena Software, a maker of application life-cycle management tools.”

10. New York Times (USA) - In Room 100, It’s Sid and Nancy All Over Again. “By consensus, the Hotel Chelsea is not the hub of bohemian life it used to be. Two summers ago, Stanley Bard, the beloved longtime manager, was replaced by a corporate management team. Rents rose, artists left. Those who managed to stay were confronted by a battery of disturbing changes: The pigeonhole mailboxes behind the front desk were removed, and Bob Dylan’s old room underwent renovations. But now, thanks to Second Life, a 3-D virtual world on the Internet, the hotel’s spirit lives on.”

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