The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Mashable (USA) – Man Pays Record $330,000 for a Virtual Space Station. “We’re not even sure what category to file this story under. We’re utterly baffled by this one. Earlier this year, the Crystal Palace Space Station went onto virtual auction in the Entropia Universe massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). Entropia Universe is well known for its “real cash economy,” where $1 can buy you 10 PEDs (Project Entropia dollars) in the virtual world. The Crystal Palace is a huge virtual space station that orbits the Planet Calypso.”

2. The Escapist (USA) – Why We Need to Ditch the Word “Virtual”. “From “virtual reality” to “virtual worlds,” the “v-word” is something we gamers and techheads know well. But real things happen in virtual worlds, and virtual reality is a reality all its own – which is why we should consider ditching it.”

3. BBC (UK) – Mobiles offer new view of reality. “Virtual Reality has been a mainstay of sci-fi for decades but 2010 could see a pared-down version become mainstream. Augmented reality (AR) has had a quiet launch on mobile handsets but it is set to explode next year, experts say. AR is a technology that allows data from the web to be overlaid on a view of the physical world. Although a relatively small sector at the moment, analyst firm Juniper Research predicts that AR will generate incomes of $732m (£653m) by 2014.”

4. Mashable (USA) – WOW: Fugitive Caught via World of Warcraft. “Police have been known to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to track down thieves (the IRS, too), and careless Facebooking can quickly get you arrested. But if you’re on the run from the law, there’s another online territory you might want to consider avoiding: World of Warcraft. Howard County, Indiana Sheriff Department Deputy Matt Roberson tracked down fugitive Alfred Hightower via the hugely popular massively multiplayer online game. Hightower was wanted on several counts of drug dealing but had fled the country to Canada.”

5. Mumbrella (Australia) – Twitter and LinkedIn neck and neck, while Bebo and Second Life lag behind. “Twitter and LinkedIn are neck and neck behind Facebook in their respective number of users, according to a new survey. The Mumbrella Industry Snapshot found that around 94 per cent of respondents have a personal Facebook account, compared to 72 per cent on Twitter and 71 per cent on LinkedIn, the social networking site for business professionals. The once dominant MySpace came in much lower with over 21 per cent, while only 7.3 per cent use Second Life.”

6. The Guardian (UK) – Virtual reality is coming of age. “I’m standing outside a branch of Diesel and a colourfully dressed man is dancing the robot in front of me like Peter Crouch on steroids. Browsing through the items on offer in the window, I spot a pair of jeans that I like the look of. The price tag says £1.59. A licensed, authorised, branded pair of Diesel jeans for £1.59. The only catch is that they’re made of pixels, not denim, and they belong in a fictional universe that could be the future of advertising, social networking and gaming combined. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of PlayStation Home.”

7. Gamasutra (USA) – Gets $6 Million For MMO Add-On Manager, Portal. “San Francisco-based MMORPG community add-on manager and portal revealed that it raised $6 million in a second round of funding in early 2009 from new backers Ventech Capital and SoftTech VC. AGF Private Equity, which previously led a Series A round in 2007 that invested $5 million into the company, also participated. Originally founded in 2005 as a repository for World of Warcraft add-ons, has since transformed itself into a network of blogs, databases, forums, wikis, and more for a variety of titles such as Age of Conan, Aion, Final Fantasy XIV, Diablo 3, and several others. The site also offers a PC and Mac Curse client for managing plug-ins for World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, and Runes of Magic.”

8. The Globe and Mail (Canada) – Teen found after meeting his 42-year-old online ‘soulmate’. “n Tuesday evening, 16-year-old Andrew Kane nonchalantly asked his mother and father if they would drive him from their Barrie, Ont., home to a hotel in nearby Midland, where he planned to meet a 42-year-old woman with whom he had been having a secret relationship over the Internet. His stunned parents refused and the teen calmly returned to the computer, telling them he would let the woman know he wasn’t coming. At 2 a.m., Marlene Kane heard her front door open, and found her son gone, leaving behind a troubling trail of web chats that led to Houston, Tex., and the World of Warcraft.”

9. The State Journal-Register (USA) – Virtual reality simulators to help Guard train for war. “Virtual reality simulators are helping the Illinois Army National Guard prepare soldiers for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Guard is in line for $8.8 million in federal funding to buy three simulators, which are designed to train soldiers how to work in convoys and respond to attacks or roadside bombs. About $2.4 million will be used to buy two systems that simulate a caravan of four Humvees. Another $6.4 million is going to another simulator that trains soldiers on a larger, armored vehicle called a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.”

10. Chicago Tribune (USA) – What will life be like 10 years from today? Here’s a glimpse. “OK, seriously this time. Several weeks ago I offered an end-of-decade list of expert predictions of all the changes in store for us (“Ten years from now …”). The surprise ending was that the predictions were all actually from late 1999 and early 2000, and the point was that the future tends to make fools of those who presume to predict it. Nevertheless. My 2020 vision may not be 20/20, but I’m guessing that 10 years from now …”

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