The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Daily News Online (USA) – Do you know where your children are? Look in a virtual world. “Once upon a time, Tinkerbell was known as the magical fairy who helped children fly. Now Disney is summoning the mischievous little sprite from Peter Pan to get kids to go online. In a virtual world called Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow, girls and boys can become a fairy, dress up, fly around, befriend other fairies and help paint lady bugs, teach baby birds to fly or go on other nature-related quests. It’s packaged as the world of Tinkerbell and her friends, and their work is to make nature happen.”

2. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – Private grids, public grids, and intragrids. “I occasionally get announcements or news from new grids running on the OpenSim platform, but they require the creation of a new avatar to visit. I don’t personally have anything against these kinds of grids, but there isn’t usually an interesting business story there. Semi-public grids — grids which don’t allow hypergrid teleportation, but allow anyone to create an account — are commonly referred to as “Second Life clones.”

3. Forbes (USA) – Wall Street Vs. ‘Virtual Street’. “For the last year, the world’s financial markets have been in utter crisis. There is one sector, however, doing well: virtual worlds that sell virtual goods. Netizens are buying and selling everything from virtual pets and gifts to games to iPhone apps. The worldwide virtual “goods” economy, which some are calling Virtual Street, is estimated at about $5 billion right now (see: “The Fall of Wall Street and The Rise of The Virtual Street”) and 80% of the industry is in Asia (China, South Korea and Japan). The beauty of Virtual Street is that it grows like a virus. The growing number of consumers getting on the Internet, the popularity of smart phones and the seemingly unstoppable proliferation of social media deep into the lives of consumers should continue to provide lots of momentum.”

4. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Gartner: Virtual Worlds, a Long-Term Play. “The researchers at Gartner Inc. released their 2009 Hype Cycle Special Report last week. The report, prepared by the organization since 1995, is at its core a comparative tool for risk judgment which, this year, looked at over 1,500 technologies and nearly 80 tech sectors. Among the nearly 1,800 data points mapped on the cycle’s peaks and troughs is virtual worlds, an area which Gartner thinks is nearing an inflection point as a technology: virtual worlds, says Gartner, are close to owning the basement of the hype cycle, bottoming out in the dire-sounding Trough of Disillusionment.”

5. WA Today (Australia) – Tourism industry casts eye to the future. “The global financial crisis, swine flu fears and a forecast dip in international visitors has left a cloud over Australia’s tourism industry in recent times. But throw in virtual worlds, pirates on cruise ships and robot sex workers, and the future of the industry looks a scary place indeed. The national Tourism Futures conference on the Gold Coast this week heard the future of the multi-billion dollar industry would be shaped by global warming, social responsibility, huge advances in technology and a more individualistic traveller.”

6. Times Higher Education (UK) – Second Life out as techies embrace cloud email. “Virtual worlds are about to plunge into a “trough of disillusionment”, lecture podcasts are fast becoming obsolete, but cloud computing will soon be on the “slope of enlightenment”. These are the findings of an analysis of the “hype cycle” of technology in education, published by Gartner, an IT advisory firm. The annual study looks at the popularity of emerging technologies, from internet TV and e-books to microblogging sites such as Twitter, across a range of sectors. It tracks their progression as a function of expectations. The cycle ranges from over-enthusiasm as technology is hyped, through a period of disillusionment when it fails to deliver, via a slope of enlightenment to a “plateau of productivity”, as users learn how best to employ it.”

7. CNET (USA) – Cataclysm hits World of Warcraft. “Pretty much exactly as predicted, Blizzard Entertainment announced the next expansion for World of Warcraft Friday afternoon during the opening ceremonies for its annual Blizzcon convention in Anaheim, Calif. Called Cataclysm, the next expansion will, among other features, raise the character level cap to 85, introduce two new playable character races, and involve a wholesale refresh of Azeroth, the setting for the original World of Warcraft game released back in 2004.”

8. Telegraph (UK) – Teenager obsessed by World of Warcraft first to attend US internet addiction retreat. “The 19-year-old man will undergo a 12-step treatment at the reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Programme in Washington state, which has opened for business to cater for the growing number of “cyber junkies”. A typical 45-day residential stay, which will include camping and wilderness adventures, will cost patients $14,500 (£8,800), but the retreat is also open to outpatients seeking respite from an overreliance on joysticks, internet pornography and spending days on end staring at a computer screen.”

9. BBC News (UK) – Castle ‘rebuilt’ in virtual world. “Invergarry was burned down by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1654. It was rebuilt, but ransacked by government soldiers after the Battle of Culloden. The MyGlengarry.com Conservation Trust has “built” two versions of the castle, near Fort Augustus, on Second Life. Virtual tours of the building in its ruinous state today and how it was in 1740 have been offered. A computer expert who writes codes for Second Life was brought in by MyGlengarry to recreate the castle.”

10. The Guardian (UK) – The technological secrets of James Cameron’s new film Avatar. “In real life, we see images in three dimensions because our left and right eyes see slightly different images that, when combined by the brain, deliver a picture that has depth. In old-fashioned 3D cinematography – the sort where your glasses had red and green coloured lenses – a pair of closely-aligned images with different tints gave the impression of depth by fooling the eyes. But modern 3D films have developed new techniques to drag them out of their B-movie past, and Avatar takes things a step further by using both computer generated imagery and advanced stereoscopic filming methods to create the illusion of reality.”

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