The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. TImes of India (India) – Virtual world hit by swine flu! “They have all fallen in the H1N1 trap. The virus that has made headlines across the world, has also hit cyberspace with growing number of people getting hooked to games on swine flu theme. Several portals coming out with games based on swine flu, an increasing number of youngsters spend between 2 and 4 hours a day, fighting the deadly strain. Albeit, virtually. Says Rohit Shankar, a 2nd year law student, ” I am totally addicted to `swinefighter.com’. It is virtual and yet real since everyone around me is talking about H1N1. The game is very simple too and keeps me addicted. One has to kill the oinking pigs with an injection in a limited time frame to have a high score.”

2. Vancouver Sun (Canada) – Twilight expands into the virtual world. “The Twilight franchise is expanding its reach online. Producers Summit Entertainment says it has reached an agreement with website Habbo to feature products and games in its virtual world. Habbo says it is “the largest virtual world for teenagers” and has teamed with Summit in an exclusive partnership to feature games promoting the Twilight films and Twilight-branded goods. The campaign is timed to start in conjunction with the Nov. 20 premiere of New Moon, the second in the enormously popular Twilight series, filmed in and around Vancouver.”

3. DNA India (India) – Want to buy a street in Paris? “V Kapadia is the owner of Marine Drive… well, virtually.A premium property in Mumbai, you would expect him to earn hefty rents from the buildings he has constructed on the road, which includes a ‘four-sided fortress’ next to Taraporewala Aquarium. Unfortunately, a rival built a sewage plant at Girgaum Chowpatty, and as a result VKAPADIA can’t earn any rent from his buildings. A huge investment literally gone down the drain. Such are the twists of fate in Monopoly City Streets, an online version of the popular board game launched this week by Google in collaboration with Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly.”

4. Simple Thoughts (USA) – Researcher invents virtual maps for visually impaired. A new software tool creating virtual maps will help the visually impaired navigate through unfamiliar places. The visually impaired often rely on others to provide cues on navigating through their environment. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t give them the tools to venture out on their own, says Orly Lahav of the School of Education and Porter School for Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University (TAU). Lahav’s new software tool is connected to an existing joystick, a 3-D haptic device, that interfaces with the user through the sense of touch.”

5. VentureBeat (USA) – The most popular digital goods are virtual money, weapons and gifts. “People are paying real money for digital goods in all sorts of online applications ranging from Facebook apps to massively multiplayer online games. The No. 1 thing they buy is virtual money. Other top items include virtual weapons and gifts for social networking friends, according to a survey released today. Free-to-play games, where you can start playing for free and then buy items in the game as you need them, now account for more than half of all virtual goods transactions, according to the July survey by market researcher VGMarket and virtual goods platform company PlaySpan. About 58 percent of gamers made purchases in free-to-play games in the past year. About 34 percent made purchases in MMO games (or virtual worlds such as Eve Online), and 23 percent made purchase in social networking games.”

6. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Trademarking Avatars Now an Option. “Law.com recently reported that Aimee Weber (real name Alyssa LaRoche), a Second Life character, applied for, and was granted, registration to for her avatar as a design mark for “claims computer programming services, namely, content creation for virtual worlds and three dimensional platforms in International Class 42.” What does this mean to business and avatar makers? This ruling, the first of its kind, indicates that avatar trademarking is real. By trademarking your avatar, it will become easier to transport them between virtual worlds, a development that will happen over the next few years, if not sooner. For example, in 2008, an avatar was transported from Linden Lab’s Second Life over to IBM’s Open Sim platform, a pretense of things to come. It also is the start of creating financial value for avatars as they are used more frequently in enterprise applications and in creative contexts.”

7. Kotaku (USA) – Gamer Movie Review: More Second Life Than Counter-Strike. “In the movie Gamer, people control real people in a living third-person shooter, guiding them through a war-torn hell created for the pay-per-view enjoyment of a staggering worldwide audience. There’s also the chance to control people in a world of over-indulgence and sex. But what ties the two worlds together, and drives the movie, is the technology behind these emerging forms of entertainment: The ability to log in and drive another human. Gamer gives us a glimpse of new world gladiators, of lust unleashed on a controlled population, of Sammy Davis dance numbers and of a world slowly turning manic, but is it worth the price of admission?”

8. Information Week (USA) – NATO Looking To Build Virtual HQ. “Today is the deadline for developers to submit proposals to build 3D virtual software replicas of NATO headquarters in Europe and America, to be used for training and meetings, and improving staff communication and productivity. The project is a bit less ambitious than NATO’s previous forays into virtual training; in February, the organization a digital simulation of Afghanistan, including Afghan economics, politics and culture, and two years ago the Navy asked for a similar simulation of Iraq, according to the Wired Danger Room blog.”

9. Nextgov (USA) – The Federal Virtual World Challenge. “he Army Research and Development Engineering Command is looking for more than a few good virtual worlds, and has kicked of a real world challenge to find the best for itself, the Homeland Security Department, NASA and other federal agencies. Tami Griffith, science and technology manager, at the Research and Development Engineering Command’s Simulation Training and Technology Center, says the challenge is designed to explore possibilities for using virtual worlds that have not, and may not have, ever been considered by government.”

10. London Evening Standard (UK) – Second Life farmers’ market gets real with home deliveries. “A virtual farmers’ market based on computer game Second Life is going online. The 3D website will offer food from up to 300 small producers across the country and will deliver to customers’ homes. Shoppers will even be able to wander around the web market and talk to producers about their goods before buying them. The site was created by former cattle farmer Marcus Carter, who attempted to boost his business by starting an online market on Second Life – where gamers “live” through virtual personae called avatars.”

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