The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Fox News (USA) – ‘World of Warcraft’ Gets Kids Interested in School. “t’s not unusual for video game players to speak of a routine that involves ordering pizza, getting a sugar jolt, and then playing “World of Warcraft” for hours. But the person talking in this case is Constance Steinkuehler, an educational researcher who organized an afterschool group for boys to play, for educational purposes, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game.”

2. MarketWatch (USA) – Virtual World ‘Planet Cazmo’ Integrates AllPosters.com Content. “Today Planet Cazmo, http://www.planetcazmo.com, a virtual world that hosts a global audience of ‘tweens and teens, announced a major update which includes integration of ad content from AllPosters.com, the world’s largest online retailer of quality wall decor, with over one million items including posters, prints, and specialty items. Planet Cazmo is one of the first virtual worlds to partner with AllPosters.com — a relationship which gives Cazmo players access to thousands of poster images with which to decorate their virtual rooms.”

3. BBC News (UK) – Future football stars start here. “If you ever had the desire to live the life of a top football player both on and off the pitch but lack the real world ball skills, then Football Superstars might be able to help. The online game combines a football simulation with a virtual world and lets players work their way up towards superstar status, earning money as they go.”

4. ScienceDaily (USA) – Virtual World Offers New Locale For Problem Solving. “Second Life, a virtual world created in 2003, currently boasts more than 12 million users worldwide who go there for everything from college recruiting to shopping. Now, Penn State researchers are investigating how virtual teams can better solve real world problems by collaborating in Second Life. Nathan McNeese, undergraduate, psychology; Gerry Santoro, assistant professor, and Michael McNeese, professor, information sciences and technology and psychology, Penn State; and Mark Pfaff, assistant professor of media arts and sciences, Indiana University-Indianapolis, created an experiment in which students formed teams and were asked to solve a problem, posed by a video, using different meeting styles.”

5. Ottawa Business Journal (Canada) – Living in a virtual world. “It was when he mentioned we could teleport to our next meeting that I got a little skeptical. I’d been chatting with Eilif Trondsen, program director of the Virtual Worlds Consortium for Innovation and Learning at California’s SRI Consulting Business Intelligence. He was in town last week to deliver a series of presentations to Industry Canada, OCRI and the National Research Council on the growing importance of ‘virtual worlds’ (VW) – those quasi-geeky, online simulated realities such as Second Life – in the business world. “The key message is corporations are recognizing that these are technologies they need to understand better,” said Mr. Trondsen, with a distinguishable Scandinavian lilt, just before heading off to the NRC early last week.”

6. Online Media Daily (USA) – HipChicas.com Targets Tween Latinas with Eco-Friendly Virtual World. “Hip Venture Co. is the latest company to enter the crowded virtual worlds market for kids, tweens and teens (KT&T) with the imminent launch of HipChicas.com. But what separates this Flash-based virtual community from some of its competitors is its focus on socially conscious, young Latinas, and its “eco-friendly” stance, differentiators that analysts say may help it stand out from the pack. HipChicas.com members can create and customize avatars and living spaces, as well as purchase items with virtual currency called Hip Change. Girls can chat in English, Spanish, Portuguese or French, with an automatic translator that displays the appropriate language for each user.”

7. io9 (USA) – Real Economist Studies Virtual Economy in EVE Online. “Today’s virtual worlds have their own virtual economies, whether you’re coughing up enough gold to buy an epic mount in World of Warcraft or converting real money to Linden dollars so you can buy realistic genitalia for your Second Life avatar. EVE Online, a sci-fi online game of space warfare and commerce, may have the deepest, most complex virtual economy in the world. It’s so deep, in fact, that EVE Online has a chief economist, Eyjolfur Guomundsson. What do real economists think of fake economies?”

8. The Guardian (UK) – We’ll all be citizens of virtual worlds. “Most people still look askance if you admit to using virtual worlds where you move around with an avatar or 3D version of yourself. It recalls the technophobic reactions in the early days of the internet. But attitudes may now change for two reasons. First, children are piling into their own virtual worlds, so their parents can get a glimpse of what it is all about. And second, a huger user base is being created, one that is accustomed to virtual worlds and is ready to trade up to more sophisticated ones as they grow older.”

9. TMCnet (USA) – Vollee Enables Nokia N96 for Second Life Mobile. “Vollee, a 3G streaming services provider, announced support for Nokia (News – Alert) N96, and also its start of sales worldwide. With Nokia’s new model, N96, users can access Second Life, the 3D virtual world platform by Linden Lab. Other than new Nokia N96, other Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Samsung, LG and other manufactures models are being supported for access to Second Life as well. In fact, with N96, there are now more than 70 3G handset models supported by the Vollee service.”

10. The Daily Telegraph (UK) – Space travel: The urban spaceman. “Richard Garriott grew up surrounded by astronauts, keeps two Sputniks in his home, and claims to own the Moon. And next week, the British-born video-game pioneer will become the sixth person to make a private flight to the International Space Station. Peter Lyle joins him in Russia as the countdown begins.”

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