The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. DNA (India) – Virtual worlds will provide real security: Indian origin scientist. “A scientist of Indian origin has determined that advances in computers are making possible virtual worlds in which defense analysts can explore and predict results of many different possible military and policy actions. The scientist in question is VS Subrahmanian, a Maryland computer science professor and director of the University’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). According to Subrahmanian and John Dickerson, a UMIACS computer science researcher, “Defense analysts can understand the repercussions of their proposed recommendations for policy options or military actions by interacting with a virtual world environment.”

2. Canada.com (Canada) – Embracing the future of fitness. “It wasn’t that long ago that running with a Discman was considered cool. Of course, so was talking on a cellphone the size of a brick. Today, people run with a phone that not only plays music and takes calls, it maps your run while tracking speed, mileage, pace and calories burned. And runners aren’t the only exercisers being courted by technology: There are smartphone apps for cyclists, gym junkies, triathletes and swimmers. Even those without a smartphone can hop on the technology bandwagon: Nike and Apple have teamed up to track runners’ stats through an in-shoe transmitter and an iPod. Stationary bikes take cyclists on virtual rides through scenic routes, and provide the opportunity to compete in a virtual race against the cyclist beside you or in the next country.”

3. VentureBeat (USA) – Next Island to launch sci-fi adventure virtual world — with time travel. “Next Island is the latest company to launch an ambitious virtual world. But this sci-fi adventure paradise comes with an interesting twist: time travel. The company is announcing today that it is building a world in MindArk’s massively multiplayer online virtual universe, Entropia Universe. That means it has licensed virtual world technology from MindArk, whose technology is behind Planet Calypso, which until now has been the only virtual world in the Entropia Universe. Next Island will be the “planet” going live in the virtual universe. Its private beta begins in less than 30 days.”

4. brand-e (UK) – New life for Second Life. “Online sharing. It’s time to brand the virtual world. That’s why UK-based Corporation Pop is making use of the Second Life platform providing a secure place for folk to meet and communicate. So, even when individuals are hundreds of miles apart, they can almost shake hands thanks to their virtual avatars. The environments Corporation Pop creates can be used for anything from team training and game-based learning to consultations and ceremonies. And they include nifty extras like embedded external video, as well as voice technology.”

5. Marketing Web (South Africa) – Real-world value of virtual markets. “News headlines for the past year have been dominated by the effects of the global recession. This trend has affected almost all industries, with computer gaming being one of the few exceptions. Shortly before the recession kicked in computer gaming overtook movies in entertainment spending, and was on track to surpass music too. When the recession hit it wasn’t immune, but the gaming growth curve lasted longer, and has kicked back in sooner, than many other industries. After a dismal September 2009 the industry has seen the first signs of turn-around as initial Q4 sales data is starting to come in.”

6. Wired (USA) – World of Warcraft Quests Remain Compelling, 5 Years On. “After five years, it’s hard to imagine a world without World of Warcraft. Released Nov. 23, 2004, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game has set the standard for the genre. More than 11.5 million players from around the world, from all walks of life, spend hours a day in the world of Azeroth. They embark on epic adventures, battle other players or just hang out. And each of them pays developer Blizzard Entertainment $15 per month for the privilege. Players create characters and develop them over time, forging relationships with other gamers and going on quests to gain experience or loot. Whether they play with strangers, friends or alone, Warcraft’s polished virtual world proves easy to get into and hard to get out of.”

7. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – Virtual goods hit $1 bil in U.S. “The U.S. virtual goods market doubled in size from 2008, to reach $1 billion this year, according to a new report from Inside Network. “While virtual goods have been driving revenues in Asia and Europe for years, 2009 will be remembered as the year virtual goods-based businesses began to scale in the United States,” said Insight network editor Justin Smith in a statement. The size of the Asian virtual goods market reached $7 billion in 2009.”

8. The Telegraph (UK) – Advertisers pile into augmented reality. “The technology origin myths say that the Model T Ford made cars, books made e-commerce and pornography made VHS. It seems that augmented reality, which takes the real world as seen through a mobile phone camera or computer webcam and adds images, digital models and data, is to be made by advertising. Not passive advertising like billboards or television commercial breaks, where you lie back and let the spending opportunities wash over you, but active advertising that you seek out and voluntarily engage with.”

9. PsychCentral (USA) – The Proteus Effect: How Our Avatar Changes Online Behavior. “The other day, a commenter asked whether people “truly represent themselves for who they are, do they take on different personality characteristics while in their online persona, and how is their level of tolerance for disagreement affected?” One way to examine this question is to look how people provide based upon their choice of avatar — the pictorial representation of themselves in an online environment (such as virtual reality game).”

10. BBC (UK) – ‘Virtual graduation’ for students. “A university is to hold a “virtual graduation ceremony” for students on a distance learning course. Edinburgh University will broadcast the ceremony at its McEwan Hall on to the Second Life web community.
The move will ensure students on its E-Learning course who are unable to travel to Edinburgh do not miss out on the graduation celebrations. They will be able to download robes for their online avatars, and gather in a virtual bar after the ceremony.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Second Life Wedding Video Scrapbook Of Rod Hennesy and Echo Rae Nov 14, 2009

2. rollercoaster and a old lady in sandbox goguen

3. Sweet Superhero (Second Life) Metrotopia Contest Entry

Interview – Nam Do, CEO Emotiv

namdowebI’ve been following the progress of Emotiv for a couple of years now, for two reasons. The first is a parochial one – the founders started out in Australia and have created some real waves with their work. The second is more obvious: computer-brain interfaces are an obvious evolution for virtual environments and Emotiv’s product is one of the first ones available for consumers at a reasonable price.

Emotiv CEO, Nam Do, is in Sydney for the XMediaLab Global Media Cultures so I took the opportunity to nab him for a few quick questions on the EPOC headset about to be released:

Lowell: For the newly initiated, how would you describe Emotiv’s mission as a company?

Nam: Since the beginning, man-machine interaction has always been in conscious form. We have always consciously direct machine to perform different tasks for us. However, interaction between human are much more complex, we take in not only conscious communication but also read each other’s expression and feel other’s emotions. Our mission is to create a new form of interface that take man-machine interaction a lot closer to that of human to human. We have created a neuro-technology that allow computer to not only read our conscious thoughts but also understands our non-conscious expressions and emotions. It’s a headset called Emotiv EPOC that reads your brainwave and allows you to control application with your mind.

Lowell: How have pre-orders of the EPOC been going?

Nam: Pre-orders are great, we have a very strong and growing fan base that has been followed and supported us for a long time. The orders are coming in very strong and with only 2 weeks, we almost fill up our limited release for Christmas. And I’m talking only about US market and direct order from our website. It does feel good!

Lowell: Can you confirm which applications / games / worlds are actively working to support Emotiv products?

Nam: We have a few applications/games that we bundle with the headset as well as we are going through testing our 3rd party’s applications to include in the box at launch. Users will also have access to a website where our developers around the world uploading their applications, much like the iPhone store.

Lowell: Are you able to outline the Emotiv product map over the coming year?

Nam: Making the product better and more and more applications ALL THE TIME.

Lowell: Are you meeting much skepticism on the efficacy of the EPOC?

Nam: Surprisingly no. We expected a lot more skepticism for our 1st release as this is a totally new technology. You have to remember that although it has a lot of potential, it’s like the computer in the 70s, you can’t expect broadband internet and photo realistic graphics yet. We have released our SDK headset a few months ago and the feedback is actually really good, people are amazed at what the headset can do.

Lowell: Do you have data on the ‘accuracy’ of the EPOC i.e. are there any objective measurements on the proportion of the time that emotions are translated effectively versus not effectively?

Nam: We have 3 different suites of detections call Expressiv, Affectiv and Cognitiv. The latency is ranging from 10ms for Expressiv to about 150ms for Cognitiv. Accuracy is also depends on how many cognitiv actions you are trying to do at a time, if it’s 2, then the accuracy is super high, it gets less accurate when you try to add more actions in too quick before you mastered the 1st 2. This is has a lot to do with the ability of making your different thoughts distinctive enough as well so you can see different people with different mental abilities which make it really interesting.

Lowell: Has there been interest from the developer community in the SDK, and if so, can you give some examples of new ways the Emotiv IP is being explored?

Nam: There is huge interest from the development community, we now have over 6,000 developers worldwide from giant multi-national corporations to independent developers. We expect to see a lot of interesting applications over the next few months. Lots of developers are submitting their applications to bundle with the consumer headset.

Lowell: The Emotiv forums seem to have some significant dissent around the pricing of the developer SDK and its highly proprietary structure. Is Emotiv reviewing its pricing at all, or do you have a response to claims that the cost is inhibiting widespread developer takeup?

Nam: Yes, we have a few people disapointed with the pricing of full RAW EEG data at the begining when it was $25,000. We since then restruture the cost to allow developers that interested in raw EEG data to get access to what they want (not neccessary full 16 channels) at a much lower cost (starting at $2,500). You have to remember that anything with 1/2 the resolution of our heaset out there is priced at around minimum $50K. Since then, we have seen a huge pick up in the number of people buying raw EEG data version of the SDK. So the answer it yes, we have reviewed and changed the pricing and it is now very attractive to developers.

—–

We’ll be reviewing the EPOC in the near future, in the meantime if you want to see the EPOC in action, check out the YouTube channel or this snippet from The New Inventors earlier this year:

Over to you: what are your thoughts on the EPOC? Does it appeal to you as an interface?

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

uwa-dustydiorama 1. The University of Western Australia’s presence in Second Life continues its dynamism with the ongoing 3D Art & Design Challenge. The picture to the left is an amazing miniature diorama with 15 events going on. It’s something you need to see for yourself to appreciate, so take the time if you have it.

2. Singapore-based ExpatFinder.com are offering those moving to Berlin the option of a pre-arrival tour in Twinity‘s replica:

“From a home or office computer, expats and their families can download a free guide, meet at a personal guided tour and get an idea of the layout of the city, the distances involved and the amenities in the new location before they arrive. With Twinity expats can become acquainted with local networking groups and community meet-ups prior to arrival.”

3. Applications for the 2010 Linden Prize are now open. The US $10000 prize will be awarded to the person who is judged to have done:

- Work in Second Life that also achieves tangible, compelling results outside of Second Life.
- Distinctive, original work using Second Life that clearly demonstrates high quality, execution, function, aesthetics and technical sophistication.
- Work that has the capacity for inspiring and influencing future development, knowledge, creativity, and collaboration both inside and outside of Second Life.

4. Mario Gerosa is putting together a book on virtual worlds memorabilia. If you have something you’d like to share a picture of, you can send it to virtualcollectibles@gmail.com:

Action figures, invitations for exhibitions, books, brochures, press kits, works of art made in real life and inspired by virtual worlds, comics, conference pass, dvd, cd, posters, business cards, etc.

Here are some examples:

- The invitation by Dior for the jewels collections in SL
- The issue of Business Week with Anshe Chung on the cover
- The T shirt made for the anniversari of Parioli in SL
- The World of Warcraft action figures
- A famous avatar business card

Interview – Evelyn McElhinney, Glasgow Caledonian University

kali1 (This story appeared earlier today over at Metaverse Health).

Coming from a nursing background myself, I’m always fascinated by the work going on in virtual environments in regards to nurse education. To some extent it’s a natural fit in that clinical simulation is a pivotal part of the education process for nurses anyway – using virtual environments is simply an extension of recognised practice.

Evelyn McElhinney (SL: Kali Pizzaro) is a Nurse Lecturer in the post-registration department of Glasgow Caledonian’s School of Health. She teaches a number of advanced practice modules including modules within the Nurse Practitioner pathway. She joined the university full time 3 years ago, and was a lecturer/practitioner working in an advanced practice role within the National Health Service prior to that and has worked in a number of acute care areas including anaesthesia. Evelyn also happens to be active in the use of Second Life in Nurse Practitioner training, so I caught up with her to discuss her work to date and some broader issues around collaboration.

Lowell: From a nursing education viewpoint, what are your key areas of professional interest / research focus?

Kali: Advancing practice, physical examination, clinical simulation, and recently the use of virtual worlds for Nurse Practitioner Education.

Lowell: When you say nurse practitioner, can you define that a little? I’m assuming you mean someone undergoing their undergraduate nursing education?

Kali: Ah no in the UK Nurse Practitioners are Registered Nurses who are advancing their practice. A nurse who takes a history, physical examination, diagnoses, prescribes and treats.

Lowell: Ok, that’s similar to Australia then. So are there particular advantages for using virtual worlds with more experienced nurses like practitioners rather than nursing students?

Kali: The advantages are that they need flexibility as they have competing demands on their time. So any medium that allows for extra practice in a time conducive to them is attractive. However, virtual worlds can do more than the usual virtual learning environment.

Lowell: When did Second Life become a consideration in your work?

Kali: I considered Second Life after seeing a project by one of my colleagues. I had know about it’s existence as the University had a project exploring it’s use for marketing. That was in March this year.

Lowell: Can you describe the work you’re doing in Second Life and how it links to the University’s CU There initiative?

Kali: I am trying to develop a virtual patient which will be used by Nurse Practitioner students to practice history taking. I have also embedded heart sounds into the avatar’s chest to enable the student to link the history to the heart sounds they hear. They must click on the correct anatomical position to hear the sounds. This work links to the CU There project as it fulfills the criteria for use of virtual worlds in education. By creating an AIML bot/bots the students have the flexibilty to practice at any time either as an individual or as a group. I plan to have a number of patients and to build on the sceanrios to create longer problem-based learning scenarios. The bot we use were developed by myself and the School technician Andy Whiteford aka AndyW Blackburn.

Lowell: So what level of work has been required to get the lab to this stage and how much more is involved to get it to where you’d like it to be?

Kali: The clinical skills lab was designed by the CU There team with guidance from the head academic in charge of the simulation lab . The build was done mainly by a computer student who is seconded to the team. There are plans to build an ITU for a scenario for 3rd year students. For my scenario it is mainly me thinking of ways to expand each scenario in alignment with the needs of my students.

Lowell: The most common feedback I’ve gotten from nursing academics is a skepticism on what virtual worlds offer that a well integrated curriculum with comprehensive leraning management tools can’t, that is, aside from the advantage of not needing to get students to a real-world simulation lab, are there other benefits of working in environments like this?

Kali: The immersive environment enables authentic scenarios to be developed. There is also the ability to offer syncrounous text and voice communication, as well as the ability to show the whole class videos etc. We can also simulate things that would be difficult in real life.

Lowell: Is there an example of that you currently use?

Kali: Not at the moment. However, for undegraduates it could be useful for them to be inside a heart or lung to understand the anatomy and physiology. It is also much more interactive than other VLE’s.

Lowell: I suppose that’s the crux of the challenge for nursing educators using virtual environments: convincing others that things have moved beyond the gimmicky, would you agree?

Kali: Yes, you need to show them something that is pedagologically sound, something they can see is useful.

Lowell: On pedagogy, what do you see as the key foundations in your work and in virtual environments more broadly?

Kali and Colin_001Kali: Constructivism and social constructivism are the key learning theories in my work. By linking history and heart and lung sounds to other parts of a clinical scenario, I am building on the students previous knowledge to create new knowledge. People in simulations tend to act the same as they do in real life. The ability to capture the text allows for reflection on the decision-making of this particular group.

Lowell: What has the feedback been from students?

Kali: Positive- they can see they value. They feel they are in the sceanrio. However, it is early days. We have only had a few folk through as a pilot. We will be using it more in the next two semesters.

Lowell: Are there formalised evaluations planned on clinical skills training in Second Life ? Will there be comparative studies on those who used such tools versus those who didn’t and their subsequent outcomes?

Kali: Yes, a number of academics are evaluating their projects and one is plannning to compare in-world and out-of-world simulation. Some of these are through a University scheme, Caledonian Scholars.

Lowell: What’s your take on nursing research in virtual environments internationally? Is it fair to say it’s still very early days?

Kali: Yes, there are a number of good projects. However, it is still in it’s infancy. Simulation seems to be the most popular project.

Lowell: Is there any research completed or underway that has particularly interested you?

Kali: Many projects have impressed me. For example the work of John Miller at Tacoma, the Imperial College in London and the Ann Myers Medical Center. However, any project which is being used by students impresses me. With regards to research most are evaluations, however, my own university has just completed some research into student nurses’ clinical decision making (Dr. Jacqueline McCallum, Val Ness, Theresa Price, Andy Whiteford).

Lowell: Can you discuss what it’s found?

Kali: It’s still in publication, however a lot of what the students said was that they wanted to experience areas they had not been to, and that they also found the scenario exhausting. Interestingly, they did not do a single observation in an hours sceanrio in a busy surgical ward. They also did not know what to do with a patient who was demented and kept leaving the ward. I think they were too busy thinking what to do next, this was despite being prompted to do observations.

Lowell: You raise a very interesting point – perhaps virtual environments make a more natural stage for making errors as there isn’t the stress of the educator looking over their shoulder?

Kali: Maybe, although this sceanrio had educators involved. Although that is the beauty of simulation – make mistakes and no-one dies ;-)

Lowell: For the nurse who has been working in either a hospital or community setting for five years or more, how do you make virtual environments like Second Life an appealing and logical extension of their professional development needs?

Kali: By making the scenarios authentic and as realistic as possible. Also they must be available at all times to ensure maximum flexibility. The student must see the value to be motivated to take part. If they are fun, then great.

Lowell: Do you think Second Life is at a stage of usability that it can achieve that now?

Kali: Not yet in the UK – it is still not widely know as a social tool. However, if it is introduced in education they may see more value, as it helps them to learn.

Lowell: On usability though – it’s still quite a learning curve to actually use, particularly for those not as net-savvy as others?

Kali: Well you could say that about any VLE, and it is really only arrows and clicking. Changing clothes is not mandatory for education. Well, not all education. I think most folks would get it in a short space of time with some guidance.

Lowell: Again specific to nursing, is there any great degree of collaboration going on internationally in regards to projects like these? How do you think nursing faculties could further improve collaboration?

Kali: We are exploring a couple of collaborations. I know Scott Deiner in New Zealand has collaborated with American colleges. However, there is the potential for major collaboration both nationally and internationally. Although you need to have a firm idea about what you want to collaborate on. Also there is still a little bit of folk finding their feet, so to share is still scary methinks.

Lowell: Do you think there’s the critical mass for organised collaborative structures such online journals or other formats for working together?

Kali: There could be, and the Virtual World Watch here has opened up avenues for collaboration by highlighting the people who are involved with virtual worlds, although there is a bit to go.

Lowell: So for a nursing academic looking to integrate virtual environments into their teaching or research, would you have any simple advice?

Kali: Make sure you think about what you want to use it for. Script the scenario and look around at other people’s work to find out what the virtual world is capable of. Also visit educational areas and talk to other academics or join a group. Make sure there is a strong pedagogical structure to your idea and show it to folks when you have something to show!! Seeing is believing.

——–

To view the publicly accessible clinical skills laboratory in Second Life, go here.

God, the Devil and Fat

In the beginning God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and orange vegetables of all kinds so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then using God’s bountiful gifts, Satan created Norgen-Vaaz Ice Cream and Magnums. And Satan said ‘You want hot caramel fudge with that? And Man said ‘Yes!’ And Woman said, ‘I’ll have one too with chocolate chips’. And lo they gained 5kg

And God created the healthy yoghurt that woman might keep the figure that man found so fair.

And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 12 to size 16.

So God said, ‘Try my fresh green salad’. And Satan presented Blue Cheese dressing and garlic croutons on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said ‘I have sent you healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them’.

And Satan brought forth deep fried coconut king prawns, butter-dipped lobster chunks , followed by deep-fried Mars Bars, and Man’s cholesterol went through the roof.

Then God brought forth the potato; naturally low in fat and brimming with potassium and good nutrition.

Then Satan peeled off the healthy skin and sliced the starchy centre into chips and deep-fried them in animal fats adding copious quantities of salt.. And Man put on more kilos. God then brought forth running shoes so that his Children might lose those extra kilos.

And Satan came forth with a cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering light and started wearing stretch jogging suits.

Then God gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite.

And Satan created McDonalds and the $2 double cheeseburger.. Then Satan said ‘You want fries with that?’ and Man replied, ‘Yes, and super size ‘em’. And Satan said, ‘It is good.’ And Man and Woman went into cardiac arrest..

God sighed ……… And created quadruple by-pass surgery.
And then ………… Satan chuckled and created Medicare!!!

Finally,after an exhaustive review of the research literature, here’s the final word on nutrition and health.:

1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
2.Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
3.Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
4. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
5. Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
6. The French eat foie-Gras, full fat cheese and drink red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like – Speaking English is apparently what kills you!!

Copenhagen, climate change and Second Life

copenhagen1-smlUnless you’ve avoided all news over the past year or so, you’ll have heard about the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, which starts on the 7th December and runs through to the 18th December.

OneClimate, auspiced by Non-profit organisation OneCLimate, has created Virtual Copenhagen a large exhibition space in Second Life. Aside from the numerous exhibitions (some are listed below), the presence will be streaming content from Copenhagen plenary sessions, press conferences and “voices from the global south that might not otherwise be heard”. Aside from the streaming aspect, those attending in Second Life will have the opportunity to put questions to people being interviewed by the broadcasters in Copenhagen.

I spent half an hour walking around the exhibits and there’s certainly plenty of interesting information to be digested. There are some exhibition spaces remaining (contact Coughdrop Littlething in-world if you’re interested). For more details on the Second Life activities, teleport there yourself or check the OneClimate website.

copenhagen2

Exhibitor listing

All but the last two listed below will have staff representatives in-world:

Beta Business Park, HeatSaver Energy Systems Inc, SmarterEarth (working in with the University of Iowa), Commonwealth Islands, NOAA, Virtual Native Lands, V-Innovate, European Metaverse Association, Public Policy Virginia, L’Ultimatum Climatique, Better World – Center for Water Studies, Human Mosaic Systems, The Institute for Sustainable Communication, Four Bridges, Peace Train, Etopia, ViO, State of the World Forum and The Transition Network.

Once the real-workd discussions fire up in December, it’ll be interesting to see what impact the Second Life aspect will play. Virtual Copenhagen is certainly well resourced and organised: whether it can cut through the enormous level of activity that’ll be occurring remains to be seen, but OneClimate certainly won’t die wondering with their efforts.

Check it out in-world

Newspaper Ad

A lonely widow, age 70, decided that it was time to get married again.

She put an ad in the local paper that read:

HUSBAND WANTED:
MUST BE IN MY AGE GROUP (70′s),
MUST NOT BEAT ME, MUST NOT RUN AROUND ON ME
MUST STILL BE GOOD IN BED !!!!!
ALL APPLICANTS PLEASE APPLY IN PERSON.

On the second day, she heard the doorbell.

Much to her dismay, she opened the door to see a grey-haired gentleman sitting in a wheelchair.

He had no arms or legs. The old woman said, ‘You’re not really asking me to consider you, are you? Just look at you…you have no legs!

The old man smiled, ‘Therefore, I cannot run around on you!’

She snorted. ‘You don’t have any arms either!’

Again, the old man smiled, ‘Therefore, I can never beat you!’

She raised an eyebrow and asked intently, ‘Are you still good in bed???’

The old man leaned back, beamed a big smile and said,

‘Rang the doorbell didn’t I?’

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Huffington Post (USA) – Real Man Traded for Cartoon Rabbit. “Getting people to change their opinion of you is tough – especially if you are a rodent who has generated billions of dollars and has become a global icon like Mickey Mouse. Mickey wasn’t Walt Disney’s first star creation, that was another big eared little mammal, Oswald the Rabbit. Oswald was taken from Walt by his employer, Universal Studios. Disney soon left Universal to start his own company. Since he didn’t have the rights to Oswald, Disney shortened and rounded Oswald’s ears and created Mickey Mouse, one of the world’s most enduring fantasy characters.”

2. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – A Wayback Machine for virtual worlds? “One of the joys of exploring virtual worlds grids is finding new fantastic new regions and builds. Then comes the pain of virtual worlds — you bring your friends back to visit, and the builds are no longer there. Maybe it cost too much to keep the region up and running, or the owners decided to put up something else, instead. As Second Life and the various OpenSim grids evolve into a true 3D Web, these early builds will become items of historical interest. It would be a shame if they all disappeared forever.”

3. San Francisco Chronicle (USA) – 3D Web will save high-performance computing industry, Intel CTO says. “Three-dimensional Web technologies will save the high-performance computing industry from its current state of financial stagnation, Intel CTO Justin Rattner predicted at the SC09 supercomputing conference in Portland, Ore. Tuesday. Delivering the opening address, Rattner said the HPC market is struggling, with a compound annual growth rate of about 3.6%. Based on current trends, there is no sign of a future upswing. “This is not a healthy business,” he said. Demand for high-performance computing capability is limited to small markets, but Rattner believes that virtually the entire population can benefit from HPC if given the right platform.”

4. allmedia Scotland (Scotland) – Ready to Check Out the 3D Me? “For all the talk of Generation Y, you don’t really have to be young to ‘get’ social media. As an employer, I follow, with interest, reports about the imminent flood of hungry young workers about to transform the jobs market with all their net savvy ways. It’ll be great for business to welcome in a workforce who grew up with social networks and see the obvious benefits without the need for a seismic shift in thinking. However, there are already plenty 30 and 40-somethings who are changing mindsets and working practices to embrace new and social media. I include myself, since I am blogged-down, Tweeted-up and Facebooked-in; fluent in audio, video and other rich content, as well as the trusty, old written word. Still, though, there is one aspect of the newfangled communications I have real trouble with: virtual worlds.”

5. Gulf News (UAE) – Virtual policing: Training for Dubai Police. “Police detectives have sealed off a violent crime scene at a Dubai flat and are busy picking up clues leading to the suspect’s arrest – and they didn’t even have to open the front door. The officers are actually Dubai Police trainees playing “serious games” that digitally rebuild real crime and accident scenes from the city onto a computer screen. Be it a celebrity murder, jewellery shop robbery or a massive car crash, the police force’s virtual training and crime scene reconstruction sections put cadets in the middle of the action. The games use actual case file details like photographs, security camera footage, documents – plus three-dimensional scans of rooms or streets – to create life-like virtual worlds where cadets can “walk around” and uncover evidence.”

6. The Globe and Mail (Canada) – THE $350 MILLION PENGUIN. “The most surreal moment of Lane Merrifield’s career came on Oct. 24, 2008, when the young B.C. entrepreneur found himself standing on a stage in the middle of New York’s Times Square, surrounded by hundreds of adoring children and crowds of equally enthused parents. It was three years to the day that he and two partners-Lance Priebe and Dave Krysko-had launched Club Penguin, a virtual world where millions of preteens meet, chat and play games via 2-D penguin proxies. The three men had plenty to celebrate.”

7. news.com.au (Australia) – Virtual world opens doors for autistic. “A VIRTUAL “thinking head” generated by hi-tech computer software is teaching autistic children to recognise and respond to facial expressions. Flinders University research has found the computerised tutor helps the children improve their social skills and communicate more effectively with bullies. Children are shown facial expressions corresponding with specific emotions and are encouraged to respond.”

8. BBC (UK) – What happened to Second Life? “Not long ago Second Life was everywhere, with businesses opening branches and bands playing gigs in this virtual world. Today you’d be forgiven for asking if it’s still going. Once upon a time Second Life had a Twitter level of hype. Even those without a cartoon version of themselves couldn’t plead ignorance due to blanket coverage in newspapers and magazines. Second Life is a virtual world started by the US firm Linden Lab in 2003, in which users design an avatar to live their “second life” online.”
.
9. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – BigPond pulls plug on Second Life. “Telstra has decided to close its doors on Second Life, evicting the residents of its virtual BigPond Island and revoking their unmetered usage, in a move that has infuriated some subscribers. BigPond’s islands will cease to exist on December 16, signalling an end to its two-year “experiment” with Second Life, and residents of the swanky virtual Pond Estate have been given a month to relocate elsewhere.”

10. WarCry (USA) – Five Years of Warcraft: Speaking With Blizzard’s Rob Pardo. “Mega-MMO World of Warcraft turns five this month, and to celebrate, our sister site The Escapist sat down with Blizzard’s VP of Game Design, WoW mastermind Rob Pardo to chat about the lessons they’ve learned, the mistakes they’ve made, and how they’d like to beat themselves at their own game.”

Talking Dog

A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: ‘Talking Dog For Sale ‘ He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

‘You talk?’ he asks.

‘Yep,’ the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says ‘So, what’s your story?’

The Lab looks up and says, ‘Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.’

‘I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.’ ‘I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.’

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

‘Ten dollars,’ the guy says.

‘Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?’

‘Because he’s a liar. He never did any of that shit.

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