The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. TechRadar (UK) – The evolution of virtual worlds. “Stitching Facebook and MySpace into a 3D environment might not seem like the most exciting project in the history of gaming, but a handful of intrepid gaming companies are wondering if social gaming is going to be the next huge, very profitable thing. The logic is simple – not everyone enjoys blowing up friends and enemies when they go online, or obsessively assembling a vast arsenal of ultra-weapons and superhuman skills. While World of Warcraft and its medieval and science fiction beat-’em-up and shoot-’em-up siblings have questing and wizarding locked down, the popularity and momentum of social networking suggests that there’s serious money to be made from friends and fans. But is this really gaming? And does it matter?”

2. The Economist (UK) – The avatar will see you now. “THAT people undergoing medical procedures should give their informed consent might seem simple and uncontentious. But what if a patient has a mental impairment and his doctor does not have time to ensure he understands the proposed treatment? Those who try to look after the interests of such people say that, in practice, hard-pressed hospital staff often ask leading questions and the “consent” obtained is thus far from informed. A team of researchers led by Suzanne Conboy-Hill, a psychologist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, England, reckon virtual environments could provide the solution. ”

3. Revolution Magazine (UK) – UK start-ups out to prove virtual worlds are back in fashion. “NearGlobal and RealLife could be among the next wave of virtual worlds to receive hype of Second Life proportions after securing venture capital funding from Ariadne Capital. The two UK companies have received unspecified amounts of funding from one of the UK’s largest digital investment firms. Ariadne’s cheif executive Julie Meyer said that the company became convinced of the potential of virtual worlds only where the user has a purpose, rather than several existing virtual worlds where the experience is casual.”

4. IT Business Edge (USA) – Catty Thoughts on Job Recruitment via Second Life. “Like many folks, I find it tough to focus on work on Fridays. It’s an even bigger challenge than usual today, thanks to the Goverment Technology story sent to me in response to a call for sources for an article I’m working on about job recruitment via social channels like Facebook and Twitter. The story, datelined September 2008, describes how the state of Missouri hired a developer for its Department of Natural Resources via a recruiting area it created in Second Life. Have trouble seeing the humor? The money quote, from Missouri CIO Dan Ross: “He came to our job fair as a tiny cat with a red bow tie on and expressed interest. That was followed by an in-person interview.” So many questions. Was it the red bow tie that helped put this developer over the top? Did other applicants apply for the position and, if so, what kind of avatars did they use? Are they going to pay the developer in Linden Dollars? Thank goodness a personal interview also was involved.”

5. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Scottish University First in UK to Teach Virtual World Development. “Glasgow Caledonian University, a school based in Glasgow, Scotland, is actively creating a 3D Web project and a major component of this project is a “complete, integrated module” that will teach students everything they need to know about 3D virtual worlds. The course will teach students all the elements required to get a VW up and running. These include hosting, managing and creating real estate, and user interactivity. The course will be taught for now in class but could also be supplemented by elements in Second Life and will also use OpenSim.”

6. Troy Media (USA) – Second Life’s founder responds to criticism. “Philip Rosedale, the mastermind behind virtual reality phenomenon Second Life (SL), predicts that SL technology will make great strides in the near term. If “near-term” is typically defined as under a year, this means users will find that it’s a lot easier to master SL and get into its virtual world, according to Rosedale.
At the moment, Rosedale says it takes about five hours to understand and get your bearings in SL. With software and hardware refinements, he says that it will take only five to 20 minutes to get the lay of SL’s virtual terrain. That’s about as close to user-friendly as any technophobe can hope for.”

7. Massively (USA) – Linden Lab releases Snowglobe 1.0 for Second Life. “A while back, Linden Lab’s Philip Rosedale announced a new Second Life viewer development project. That project ultimately grew along lines similar to that of third-party viewer project, Imprudence, breaking down many barriers to user contributions, and adopting a more agile methodology. After only a couple of release-candidates, the result is already available. One of the biggest developments you might see in the Snowglobe viewer is that the map is now an order of magnitude faster to load, rather than taking several fractions of forever, as is traditional. This is the start of a new texture-transfer pipeline, which we can reasonably expect to become standard in future viewers, and to encompass more kinds of textures, however there’s a new caching architecture which should benefit all textures.”

8. Express Buzz (India) – Senior citizens in second life. “As we entered, we were greeted with a cheerful smile from Bessie, a small old lady with a crop of snow white hair, exuding an infectious enthusiasm. Once you are in the restful premises with its lush green gardens, you will feel like you have been transported away from the city. This is the Little Sisters Of The Poor on Hosur Road, a home for the aged and the infirm. Well, if that makes you think of a place bereft of liveliness, of a place where people just bide their with nothing much to do, think again. Expresso paid a visit to see how the elderly come together to form a community and go through their daily lives.”

9. Destructoid (USA) – Sony: Home to be ‘essential’ for all PS3 games. “f you close your eyes and get everybody to be quiet, you can almost hear my soul dying a little bit. That’s because Sony has stated that its eventual goal for PlayStation Home is to make the horribly dull poor man’s Second Life an “essential component” of the PS3 experience. Excuse me while I am sick into a little bag. “Home is the starting point for PlayStation 3 online, and that’s something that gamers are going to expect as more games support Game Launch from within Home,” promises SCEE’s Peter Edward. “This will become an essential component for all PS3 games.” Edwards states that Home is not going anywhere soon, stating that the company is “in it for the long-term.” He also boasts 7 million users of the service worldwide. 6 million virtual items have also been downloading, leading me to believe that the world is full of incredibly bored people. ”

10. AdAge (USA) – Twitter Is What Second Life Wasn’t: Light, Cheap and Open. “I run into many skeptics who believe that Twitter is rife with the sort of hype associated with the ascent and crash of Second Life. This is not true. Twitter is suffused with hype, for sure, but it is a much different and more sustainable hype than Second Life. Here’s why: Twitter is light, cheap, open and permanent, whereas Second Life is heavy, expensive, closed and ephemeral. Twitter does things right where Second Life failed. Second Life is amazingly heavy, requiring lots of computer, lots of bandwidth and a commitment to client software. Second Life is a closed system, a walled city, completely invisible to serendipity and coincidence. Second Life is greedy, pushing avarice and commerce. Second Life is ephemeral and anti-textual, meaning that all of the work and energy one spent on Second Life invariably went away the moment people stopped investing time and money into the platform. While there was a programming language, a scripting language and lots of room for creativity, Second Life was not nearly as agnostic and open a platform as it could have been.”

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