The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. eNewsChannels (USA) – Virtual World Museum of Robots Hosts Competition That Asks Residents to Create Robots to Wear and Display. “Museum of Robots in Second Life announces the “Build-a-Robot” Competition, and invites all Second Life residents to participate. According to the organizers, “Our goal is to explore what a robot is, how it can be expressed within the parameters of Second Life, and to encourage creativity and originality. Our definition of ‘robot’ is unlimited: any creation that the designer thinks can be called a robot is acceptable.” Entrants receive a merchandise prize, with an additional Linden dollars cash prize pool awarded to the top 10 winners.”

2. San Jose Mercury News (USA) – Business is booming in virtual worlds. “To save money in these tough times, universities, conference planners and global companies have started holding gatherings for far-flung employees and students in the online world known as Second Life. Sun Microsystems has only one rule: Employees should show up looking like humans. Other companies don’t seem to mind if their workers take the form of animals and other entities while they’re on the clock. On a recent afternoon in Second Life, about 20 avatars – the personalized character each inhabitant of the virtual world adopts – gathered for a lecture on software development sponsored by Intel. The semiconductor giant planned the event to spark conversation about complex technical topics among employees and others across the globe.”

3. The Scotsman – Ewan Morrison: Weegie bored. “This past week I have done virtually nothing. Or rather in the real world I have done very little because I have been living a very full and exciting virtual life. In ‘reality’ I went to the supermarket a few times, performed several self-maintenance duties, ate and slept. I did not talk to a single soul other than a few checkout assistants.
Meanwhile, in my virtual week, I went to three indierock gigs, attended a lecture by the world’s leading philosopher, watched strangers having sex, swapped music and jokes with seven friends, went book shopping, was reunited with an old German buddy, spoke on Skype for eight hours and stared down at real-time footage of my own rooftop from a Nasa satellite.”

4. AFP – Schools eyeing virtual campuses. “An Internet fantasy universe teeming with faux worlds devoted to socializing and video games is expanding to include virtual classrooms and universities.
A new trend in online education involves students acting through animated characters called “avatars” mingling in simulated school settings and even rocketing off, via the Internet, on quests for knowledge.”

5. The Guardian (UK) – Why are MMOs having a population crisis? “In the real world, overpopulation is a serious concern. The 6.6 billion people on this planet are draining natural resources, and in all areas – except Europe, apparently – the problem is expected to get worse in the next half-decade. In online worlds, however, overpopulation is more of a goal than a crisis. While Blizzard’s unstoppable World of Warcraft (WoW) has seen an exponential growth in its subscriber base since 2004 – it now rests at around 10 million – two of its closest rivals, Lineage and Lineage II, have much smaller (1 million each) user bases. And most of the other notably successful Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) plateau at (and slowly decline from) the 200,000 to 500,000 mark. In these worlds, people don’t use the resources – they are the resources, and if their attention drifts, the virtual world tends to languish.”

6. Pocket Gamer (UK) – Talking streaming, Second Life and mobile World of Warcraft with Vollee and Linden Lab. “A few weeks ago, we reported that start-up company Vollee is set to bring Linden Lab’s Second Life to mobile using its VolleeX engine, which streams games running on the company’s servers to mobile handsets, theoretically enabling you to play any PC game you like on your phone.
It’s an intriguing idea, with as many potential pitfalls as striking selling points. We were curious about how, and how well, it works, so we asked Vollee’s head of business development Julian Corbett and Linden Lab’s VP of platform development Joe Miller to fill us in.”

7. Financial Times Deutschland (Germany) – Commercials cause concern in the virtual Barbie world. “BarbieGirls.com is going VIP. The website associated with Mattel’s Barbie dolls – the world’s most popular toy – introduced a paid subscription section, offering users access to an improved version of its virtual playground. The site, launched just a year ago, allows users to create and dress their own online avatars, earning and using virtual “B Bucks” money. With more than 11m girls registered, BarbieGirls is about to turn into a new revenue source for Mattel. Chuck Scothon, head of Mattel’s girl brands, says the site is attracting girls in the eight-to-15 age group who may be outgrowing Barbie herself.”

8. The Times Online (UK) – Is Second Life about to have a second life?. “If there was one sentence, uttered by its creator, that neatly encapsulates the grown-up ambitions and continued infancy of Second Life, the virtual world that will be ten years old next year, it is this: “Once you get inside it’s an amazing experience, but we still have this situation where a lot of people have problems tying up their shoes.”

9. The Toronto Star – Conan the Barbarian’s latest conquest: The world of MMORPGs. “At roughly 10 million subscribers strong, the king of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) continues to be Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. But if the first week of Age of Conan sales is any indication, those green orcs will need to make way for barbarians. More than 400,000 players have already logged into Funcom’s Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (www.ageofconan.com), making it one of the fastest-selling computer games of all time. About half of those numbers are based on North American sales and the other half from Europe. The MMORPG was developed out of Funcom’s Oslo, Norway studios.”

10. The Economic Times (India) – Few websites to keep kids busy during holidays. “As the summer heat swelters, temperatures seem to be soaring in an interesting new online world too. Just like virtual worlds such as Second Life helped adults escape from their mundane lives, now with the summer holidays underway, it’s time for kids to escape the shackles of the world run by parents and teachers by logging on to virtual worlds specially designed for teens.”

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