The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Kotaku – Sims Franchise To Explore, uh, Virtual Worlds?. “In a somewhat bizarre interview with The Times Online, Nancy Smith (head of the Sims division at EA) said that ” in light of the popularity of virtual worlds … the Sims may soon become a multi-player game.” The article fails to mention the failed experiment of The Sims Online, later rebranded to “EA-Land” and scheduled for closure in August.”

2. Linux Insider – Virtual Space Travel, Part 1: One Small Step. “For those of us old enough to remember life before the Internet , the term “virtual space travel” probably conjures memories of childhood visits to the local planetarium. Fast forward to today, and things are just a little different. In today’s Internet-enabled world, ordinary citizens can explore the universe from the comfort of their own homes through the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Sky, Google Moon and Google Mars. Virtual tours are available from sites like SpaceWander and Space.com. Never before has the universe been so close within reach of everyday people. Now, thanks to the virtual world of Second Life, the possibilities have been extended even further.”

3. Venture Beat – Vollee helps Second Life make the leap into mobile. “Fans of Second Life can now access the virtual world through their mobile phones, thanks to a Redwood City, Calif. startup called Vollee. Squeezing a relatively high-end game like Second Life onto your mobile phone without slowing the experience to a crawl is an impressive technical achievement. And this isn’t just some pared-down “check your status” feature, but a real mobile version of the game, one that lets you wander, fly or teleport through the world and chat with your friends. Vollee says it takes advantage of compression and 3G mobile networks to minimize bandwidth requirements.”

4. Variety – Techie tykes get wired. “Little kids are spending time online like never before — in ways that even their older Facebook-addicted siblings couldn’t have imagined five years ago. The showbiz congloms are learning new ways of playing with these tech-savvy tots … but is everybody playing nice? Major media companies including Viacom, Time Warner and, of course, Disney have committed well over $1 billion during the past two years on thousands of casual games and “virtual worlds” that are the moppet answer to MySpace, as well as offering the opportunity for kids to set up their first email accounts before they lose their baby teeth.”

5. AFP – Paralysed man takes a walk in virtual world. “A paralysed man using only his brain waves has been able to manipulate a virtual Internet character, Japanese researchers said Monday, calling it a world first.
The 41-year-old patient used his imagination to make his character take a walk and chat to another virtual person on the popular Second Life website. The patient, who has suffered paralysis for more than 30 years, can barely bend his fingers due to a progressive muscle disease so cannot use a mouse or keyboard in the traditional way.”

6. Stuff.co.nz – Virtual worlds with a Kiwi flavour. “You might think you live in a small world, but thanks to Auckland software development company Outsmart you can now do just that in its 3D virtual world SmallWorlds.
Outsmart co-founder Mitch Olson says SmallWorlds has a “social entertainment focus” and allows users to create cartoon avatars and their own room or space – as they would create a profile on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook.”

7. CNET – A rallying cry against cyberbullying. “Lawmakers and Internet executives are perking up to the growing problem of kid bully fights on the Web. Legislators are newly arming themselves with laws that will protect kids from being repeatedly harassed via the Internet, text messages, or other electronic devices. In recent weeks, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) proposed a federal law that would criminalize acts of so-called cyberbullying.”

8. The Independent – Are ads on children’s social networking sites harmless child’s play or virtual insanity? “As social networking spreads to users as young as five, makers of toys and TV shows are making the most of new opportunities to reach children online. But with more than 100 youth-focused virtual worlds now either up and running or about to launch – over half of which are aimed at under-sevens, according to one estimate – regulators and parents are struggling to keep up.”

9. Los Angeles Times – Testing Second Life on a mobile phone (get ready to text!). “You can do lots of things on a mobile phone. Find directions. Play time-consuming games like Brickbreaker. Call your friends. Now, if you have one of 40 high-tech mobile phones, you troll around on an island, cavort with dolphins and maybe even go to a corporate meeting. No, this isn’t some new function of the iPhone. We’re talking about Second Life, the 3-D roleplaying game that was really popular, then wasn’t and then was again. A company called Vollee has launched a free beta version of Second Life on mobile phones, calling it the first time “residents can explore the entire virtual world from their handsets.”

10. Plan Adviser Virtual Reality. “Before you know it, more meetings could be conducted on exotic islands—virtual, that is. Second Life could even evolve as a cheap tool for advisers and the financial industry as a whole to relate to the younger and more tech-savvy generation. In April 2008, the Internet-based Second Life (www.secondlife.com) had nearly 14 million “residents” and an economy totaling 4.9 billion Linden dollars (about $19.6 million), according to a press release. Since launching in 2003, Second Life has seen investment from consumer and technology companies, including IBM, as a medium for training, meetings, and corporate presentations.”

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