Archives for March 2010

Murdoch University: ME/CFS Support in Second Life

This story appeared originally on Metaverse Health.

In recent weeks, thanks to a health professional colleague, I became aware of a research project underway at Murdoch University, looking at the use of virtual worlds as a support mechanism for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). It’s an ARC funded, three-year project titled Isolation, illness and the Internet: Exploring the possibility of a second life for sufferers of ME.

Chief Investigator for the research is Kirsty Best, a lecturer in Communication and Media Studies. She kindly spent some time explaining the research project and providing some insight on the wider issues faced by those with ME/CFS. There is also a further viewpoint after the Q&A section from Alex, an Australian living with ME/CFS who has been taking part in the project.

DH: To start off, can I get you to tell me a little about yourself, your specific role at Murdoch and with this project?

KB: I’m a Senior Lecturer with the School of Media, Communication and Culture. I received an ARC Discovery grant last year – the project and the centre are the result of that grant but I am planning to keep it going after funding runs out.

DH: So the part we’re standing in now contains resources on ME/CFS?

KB: I have created some user-friendly resources about ME/CFS. They’re aimed both at people with ME, who end up having to do a LOT of research on their own due to ignorance of the illness, and the general public. We also have a calendar of what’s going on. Then over here I have some major ME/CFS websites that I have found the most useful and user-friendly, with various theories of the cause, various treatment protocols and also support groups.

DH: With the cause theories, how have you assessed their validity?

KB: That’s not my area of expertise, and it’s not about that. This is about giving people with a very misunderstood illness the resources they need to find out more, get support, and be heard. I’m not a scientist. Some of our members are very interested in the biochemistry, etc and in our mailing list and groups the discussions often end up talking about some of these things.

DH: Absolutely – but what I’m getting at is how do you determine that the information is clinically sound? Let’s say an illegitimate site popped up making incorrect claims that could cause harm – how do you screen that?

KB: I don’t screen that. There are a lot of competing theories out there. I am just providing links to the sites that provide the best summaries of what has been said so far. To be honest, VERY little scientific research is even conducted about ME/CFS

DH: Ok, that makes sense. I suppose what I’m getting at is some of the value add for virtual worlds and health can be to provide guidance on the evidence-base or to debunk incorrect information.

KB: That is not what my work is about. I am not looking into causes and effects. I have no training in that. I am looking to provide people with ways to overcome their social isolation using virtual media. This area is a very small part of what the centre is about.

DH: Can you tell me a little about the research you are conducting here?

KB: It’s ongoing. I’m interviewing people with ME/CFS from Canada and from Australia about how and whether computers and the Internet help to ease some of the isolation they experience due to their illness, getting them set up with an avatar, getting them oriented and then seeing if SL is a useful way of supplementing some of their other Internet-based activities or whether it is too hard.

DH: Can you give any details on the methodology you’re using in the research e.g. specific qualitative or quantitative methods?

KB: I have conducted the first round of interviews, we will be having focus groups then more interviews. It’s all qualitiative.

DH: So how large is the first group?

KB: Thee’s roughly forty people.

DH: Can you describe the experience of the interviews and activities to date?

KB: Some had to drop out because of the requirements of SL: they didn’t have broadband for instance, or a fast enough computer. Real accessibility issues. But to be honest, the most important accessibility issues for people with ME are not just about hardware or bandwidth. It’s an illness that affects all systems in the body, including cognitive, and so orientation and navigation become very problematic. I do a LOT of troubleshooting. But there are benefits people are experiencing as well. It’s a mixed bag. A series of tradeoffs. People really like the social interaction, but getting their heads around the technology is hard.

However I have to say that Second Life DOES give an experience that is unique, and that people like. At the last meeting, one of our members who hadn’t been able to make it in a while said that when she saw us standing there, she felt like running up and hugging us, if she knew how to do it! She said how it really made her feel like she knew these people, and since she is pretty much housebound, having the visuals and the voice, and the virtual environment really made a difference. I’m not sure it’s worth the tradeoffs for some people, but for some it definiitely is – it depends on people’s levels of dysfunction in relation to spatial orientation to a large extent.

DH: What made you choose CFS as the research topic? Was it a personal interest?

KB: I’m very passionate about it, yes. These people have the worst of all worlds. They have a devastating illness in terms of quality of life, they have very little support from the medical community, and have to do pretty much all the research themselves–which of course they don’t have the energy for. And they have very little support from their friends and family. In fact this comes up quite a lot, and people are CONSTANTLY saying how their friends and family don’t believe them. or don’t support them, or what have you. And so this place is somewhere they can actually be understood.

DH: Was there a specific event that led you to understand how hard it is for CFS sufferers?

KB: I have a close family member who has had ME/CFS for – it must be 12 or more years now. It prompted me to do a lot of research about the condition. Let’s just say that whenever I try to explain the condition, or this project to anyone, I experience it for myself. I get very defensive. People with cancer or MS don’t feel they are having to constantly justify their illness. It’s very draining. And I”m healthy! It’s FAR worse for them.

DH: In regards to lack of support from the medical community, why do you think that is?

KB: I have been involved with volunteering for an organization in Canada that was actually LAUGHED at by a doctor when they approached him to see if he would speak at an ME/CFS Awareness Day. I think it’s changing slowly though. But very slowly. The Canadian Consensus Definition is extremely important to this – all the other clinical definitions have been sorely lacking.

DH: So for you, what would be measures of success for you, for both the research and the support here more broadly?

KB: Well success for the research would be finding out in what ways virtual environments such as SL can help this marginalized community, despite their cognitive and spatial difficulties. Hopefully we will find out specifically what is working and what isn’t. We already take our members to Virtual Ability island, who have been very helpful. But there are still a lot of ways that the evironment is very challenging to people with ME/CFS, as I have said.

I’m not sure these can be overcome completely. I think part of it is intrinsic to technology itself. There will always be these black holes where the technology fails us, no matter how advanced it gets, because bugs and usability issues are eternal. And for someone with ME/CFS, these are magnified 5000 percent. So I guess success is simply finding ways of amelioriating these black holes, if we know what to look for. I don’t think this environment will ever be for everyone with ME/CFS, but for those it reaches, its impact can be profound. I would say that is success.

DH: You mentioned that ME/CFS sufferers can experience cynicism from some health professionals – if this research demonstrates outcomes as far as social support, could this make those cynics sit up and take notice as whether they ‘believe’ in ME or not, the results will speak for themselves and need to be acknowledged?

KB: It doesn’t prove anything about the nature or reality of ME however. Unfortunate but true. I think you only have to speak to these people and be around them for a while to understand. See them totally struggle with things we find complely simple and no big deal. So I think the only thing that will potentially change someone’s mind is if they were to come here and join us for a few weeks! However, I think it’s really a culture change that needs to go on in both broader society and in the health community.

As there are more and more individuals coming forward and publicising their experiences (in books, online, in other media), as there are more and more projects and support groups and spaces such as this one that are springing up, then the community and the illness can’t help but be noticed. At this point, the culture of cynicism will hopefully slip and be replaced. So I guess I see this is a tiny brick in the wall. I do want to use it as a way to generate awareness in the broader SL community at least. I would like to hold events here and so on. How many health professionals there are that use SL I don’t know!

DH: There are quite a few 😉 Could you forsee collaborative research in the future, with say allied health professionals, on the use of virtual worlds as a support mechanism?

KB: Oh yes, that would be great, but that’s not about changing anyone’s mind. Those health professionals would already be open to it. The people who don’t believe, you can’t really budge them. I hear this over and over again from our members. I believe it. However, as I said, it is changing slowly, so there are some people who would be more open in the first place. They would be the kind we could collaborate with. The “early adopters” so to speak.

Alex’s perspective:

Firstly, due to my illness I frequently do not enjoy being on Second Life. This isn’t about fun, it’s about need. I am too sick to function in the real world, but Second Life gives me just that – a chance to interact with people and alleviate the worst affects of severe isolation, in combination with a sense of being in the world, albeit virtual. (I play open world RPGs for much the same sense of being in the world). SL still makes demands on my health, just not as much as real life. One of the big issues is preventing desocialisation – we can become so isolated that we no longer relate to other people. Second Life allows for avatar-to-avatar talks, which while it isn’t as good as real life it does have its benefits.

For the first time I have met another person with long term ME/CFS who has similar health to me. Most people involved in CFS support groups are female, so there are very few long term male patients, and it turns out our experiences are very similar in ways that differ from most of the ladies.

Of course, I am also a long-term advocate for scientific research into ME/CFS, and this is not the first study I have been in with respect to ME/CFS, although this is the most prolonged sociological study that I have been involved in. I don’t know where this is going, and there are risks, because ME/CFS is one of the diseases in which charity and support groups occasionally fail because everyone involved can be too sick to keep things running. I do wish the researchers success in their aims, and I do see potential for this to provide social support for people too sick to find it in real life.

One of the drawbacks we keep running into is a combination of technical problems and illness issues. Some of us can’t handle too many people/avatars being around, and this is aggravated by sound degradation issues when too many people are present, particularly since most of us have problems with adapting to new technology. One fix is being tested at the moment, breaking us into smaller groups, but we have to move far enough away so that SL doesn’t pick up our speech. Large crowds of avatars in any part of SL are likely to cause problems for many of us.

You can see the project for yourself here, and I’ve also created a quick walk-through machinima as well:

Crime and virtual worlds: the Australian take

Earlier this month, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) released an issues paper titled Crime risks of three-dimensional virtual environments.

Written by Deakin University’s Ian Warren and Darren Palmer, its focus is identifying the potential harms of 3D virtual environments, discussing best governance approaches and identifying areas for future research.

The foreword, as you’d expect, sums the paper up nicely:

Three-dimensional virtual environments (3dves) are the new generation of digital multi-user social networking platforms. Their immersive character allows users to create a digital humanised representation or avatar, enabling a degree of virtual interaction not possible through conventional text-based internet technologies.

As recent international experience demonstrates, in addition to the conventional range of cybercrimes (including economic fraud, the dissemination of child pornography and copyright violations), the ‘virtual-reality’ promoted by 3dves is the source of great speculation and concern over a range of specific and emerging forms of crime and harm to users.

This paper provides some examples of the types of harm currently emerging in 3dves and suggests internal regulation by user groups, terms of service, or end-user licensing agreements, possibly linked to real-world criminological principles. This paper also provides some directions for future research aimed at understanding the role of Australian criminal law and the justice system more broadly in this emerging field.

The paper overall is certainly well thought out and covers some ground as far back as the early 90’s with the now infamous Mr Bungle episode. As we’ve said in our own paper on policy and virtual worlds, establishing acceptable governance mechanisms is certainly key to future growth and success of virtual environments. Papers like this one from the AIC help to get the issue on the agenda, but even in my most non-cynical frame of mind, I doubt there’ll be much local progress in the near future. That said, kudos to the AIC for being at the forefront, no matter how glacial the progress may end up being.

Read the full report here.

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. CNET (USA) – Start-up hopes to bridge real, virtual worlds. “Micazook, a start-up trying to bring some real-world flavor to virtual worlds on the Net, plans to publicly launch an online realm it calls Project X for now. “A beta will be out in the next few weeks,” Michael Fotoohi, managing director and one of the prime programmers behind the project, said at the Image Sensors Europe conference here. By then, he said, Project X should have a real name instead of its present placeholder. Project X attempts to overlay the free-wheeling style of Second Life over a model of the real world. The company has obtained high-resolution imagery for many parts of the world, combined it with data for where roads are located, and used it as a foundation for the virtual world. Think of it as Google Maps Street View populated by avatars.”

2. VentureBeat (USA) – Secret Builders raises $2.3M to expand educational virtual world for kids. “Secret Builders is announcing today that it has raised $2.3 million in funding for its online virtual world with educational games for children. In doing so, it has shown that it’s one of the survivors of what was once a very hot sector now littered with dead companies. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company debuted its Secret Builders web site in December, 2008. It has slowly built up to 1 million registered users, and it now has 350,000 to 400,000 unique monthly visitors from 190 countries. ”

3. Wired (UK) – Does World of Warcraft reflect real life concerns? “We can learn about the future of our world by studying World of Warcraft, a sociologist has suggested in a new book being published this month. William Sims Bainbridge argues in The Warcraft Civilization: Social science in a virtual world that the game isn’t just “escapist fantasy” but offers an insight into ” how people are going to be respectful of each other in a world in which there aren’t enough resources” – something we are already facing in reality. Speaking to Samantha Murphy of New Scientist, Bainbridge said that sociologists could glean as much from virtual worlds about human concerns and attitudes as they can from the real world. The challenge is then how to interpret the information.”

4. CNET (USA) – Don’t laugh, Venuegen’s virtual meetings can work. “My co-workers will attest to the fact that when I started reading the materials about Venuegen’s virtual-meeting-room service, I audibly groaned. I’ve had enough of companies trying to make meetings work in Second Life-ish virtual worlds. It’s too cute an idea for too serious a need. Or so I’ve always thought. A demo of the service, which is being unveiled at the Demo conference Monday, opened my eyes a bit. Built on a gaming platform but decidedly not a game or “virtual world,” like Second Life or There, Venuegen is a world of 3D rooms inhabited by human-appearing avatars with photo-mapped faces (like yours and your co-workers’), and a set of controls aimed squarely at replicating both the real-world experience of sitting in a meeting room and the unique online experience of sharing onscreen presentations and having private back-channel conversations while watching a public presentation.”

5. PhysOrg (USA) – Real criminals use virtual worlds to launder money. “Senior Law lecturer Dr Clare Chambers has just started an 18-month project to investigate whether the legal structure of these virtual worlds – where players use real money to buy virtual goods such as land, businesses or consumer items, which can then be sold on or exchanged – enables money laundering offences to be committed. Clare said, “On an average day, about £750,000 changes hands in the most popular virtual world platforms. The most recent research into virtual fraud was carried out in 2007 and this concluded that money laundering was on the increase in virtual realities. More up-to-date research is required in this area order to understand and combat it.”

6. Discovery News (USA) – Could Gamers Save Our World? “I’m not talking about the virtual worlds found in World of Warcraft or Second Life. I’m talking about Earth, our motherland, la tierra. And I’m wondering if those people who spend 16 billion hours a year tapping keyboards or jiggling joysticks can save the world. It’s not my idea. In this TED Talk video, Jane McGonigal, director of games research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., suggests that if we could harness the power of video games, where players collaborate and are given the incentive to become heroes, we could solve real-world problems.”

7. Oxford Press (USA) – Miami research team awarded grant for virtual environment. “At first glance, it doesn’t appear to be an area of scientific research. With basketball hoops being cranked to the ceiling, it looks like any other big gymnasium. This place, however, is not just another gym. It’s the HIVE. The Huge Immersive Virtual Environment is located in the basement gymnasium of Miami University’s Phillips Hall. The HIVE is an immersive virtual environment in which a person wears a helmet and their movements are tracked by infrared censors. The structure is the largest of its kind, with similar structures at Brown University in Providence, R.I., and Tübingen, Germany, according to Miami psychology professor David Waller.”

8. TechCrunch (USA) – Avatar Reality Raises $4.2M For 3D Virtual World, Hires Industry Vet Trent Ward. “Avatar Reality, developer of the massively multiplayer online virtual world platform Blue Mars, has raised an additional $4.2 million from Kolohala Ventures and co-founder and games industry veteran (and somewhat of a legend) Henk Rogers. That brings the total invested in the company to more than $13 million, according to the press release. In addition, Avatar Reality has announced that it has recruited Trent Ward to join as the new VP of Design. Ward has been in the industry for quite a while, having worked as creative director for companies like Foundation9, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts.”

9. Gamasutra (USA) – Opinion: Fear and Loathing in Farmville. “GDC 2010 is now in the books, and it will be a hard one to forget because the whole conference seemed to be obsessed with one thing, which I summed up in this tweet. Or, as designer David Sirlin puts it here: “Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.” Off the top of my head, here are the highlights and lowlights of this fixation: -The long-running Casual Games and Virtual Worlds Summits have vanished entirely from the conference, presumably eaten up by the new Social Games Summit.”

10. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – Law firm holds meetings, training in Second Life. “New Orleans law firm Jones Walker has been conducting meetings and training programs in Second Life, the company announced this month. “We created office space where we could conduct meetings, make presentations, provide training, and explore the applications of Second Life to the law firm environment,” said chief marketing officer Carol Todd Thomas in a statement.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Location avid GOTHIC in second life

2. Second Life – Interesting Places – INSPIRE SPACE Park


Linden Lab CEO’s art show in Second Life: UWA scores again

Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon / M Linden isn’t the sort of guy associated heavily with Second Life’s burgeoning art scene. So it’s a little surprising to find out he’s about to have his first art exhibition.

What’s less surprising, at least to me, is that the exhibition will be occurring as part of the University of Western Australia’s presence in Second Life. I’ve said previously that the ongoing art and machinima competitions there are some of the best anywhere, so it’s a deserved location for exhibitions like these.

The momentum that has been generated and maintained by the UWA team has been nothing short of astounding, and things only seem to be growing further. Back to M Linden, here’s how he describes his history as an artist:

From the time I was 6 years old until I was 20, I had planned to be a painter. As I was contemplating graduating from college with a fine arts degree and all that being an artist entails, I decided to make a hard left turn and follow a radically different path. I changed my major to economics, graduated and went on to business school to get a graduate degree. I doodle to focus my mind and I can do it for hours. But, I prefer doodles that I can complete in one short sitting. I gravitate to repetitive constructs of unbroken intersecting lines or interconnected parallelograms…you could call them “dynamic connected systems.” I guess my art and my interest in economics shared this “connected systems” construct.

Drawing in 3D in Second Life wonderful. I can think bigger and do more in Second Life. It’s changed the way I think about art. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said it best: “Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.

The Exhibition is called Doodle Art and its opening is on Saturday 27th March at 3pm SLT (9am Sunday morning AEDT), at the UWA’s Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. You can get a glimpse in Larkworthy Antfarm’s machinima here:

There’s also real world event taking place at the University this Friday, hosted by artist Len Zuks – contact Jayjay Zifanwe in-world if you’re interested in attending that.

Credits for the exhibition as supplied by Jayjay Zifanwe:

The Curator: White Lebed
UWA Owner & Co-Host: JayJay Zifanwe
The Gallery builders: The Slingshot, Nyx Breen
Logo by: Miso Susanowa
Promotional Machinimas: Chantal Harvery and Larkworthy Antfarm
RL Host at UWA: Len Zuks

Again, congrats to the UWA team for their work. Whether you like M Linden’s art or not, it’s certainly an acknowledgement of the work done by UWA to date and hopefully a good indicator of ongoing success.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

1. We may be biased, but Tateru Nino’s weekly Virtual Whirl column over at Massively is always worth a read – this week it has lots of Linden Lab staff movements and quite a bit more.

2. 2D social networks for avatars continue to thrive. One of the big success stories is Koinup, which has recently been adopted by Frenzoo. I’ve also had some conversations with recent entrant Moolto, which has developed a decent following so far. If you have a social network your avatar takes part in that you’d like to share, then let us know.

3. Its been two weeks since we launched the Metaverse Reader application for iPhone / iPod Touch and it’s great to be able to say there are now well over a hundred regular users of the app. Enhancements to the application are already underway, so why not give it a try?

4. The latest update to the Second Life Viewer 2 is now available, with a bunch of issues resolved.

5. For the dedicated, this very detailed post on the emergence of Facebook social gaming worlds is well worth the read.

6. Metaverse Health has had a facelift and there’s some exciting health-related stories coming up in the next few weeks. We’ll post most of them here, but if there’s room in your RSS reader, we’d love to have you on board there as well 😉

London Lawyer vs Glasgow Cop

A London lawyer runs a stop sign and gets pulled over by a Glasgow copper.

He thinks that he is smarter than the cop because he is a lawyer from LONDON and is certain that he has a better education then any Jock cop. He decides to prove this to himself and have some fun at the Glasgow cops expense!!

Glasgow cop says, ” Licence and registration, please.”

London Lawyer says, “What for?”

Glasgow cop says, “Ye didnae come to a complete stop at the stop sign.”

London Lawyer says, “I slowed down, and no one was coming.”

Glasgow cop says, “Ye still didnae come to a complete stop. Licence and registration, please.”

London Lawyer says, “What’s the difference?”

Glasgow cop says, “The difference is, ye huvte to come to complete stop, that’s the law, Licence and registration, please!”

London Lawyer says, “If you can show me the legal difference between slow down and stop, I’ll give you my licence and registration;and you give me the ticket. If not, you let me go and don’t give me the ticket.”

Glasgow cop says, “Sounds fair. Exit your vehicle, sir.”

The London Lawyer exits his vehicle.

The Glasgow cop takes out his baton and starts beating the f*ck out of the lawyer and says,

“Dae ye want me to stop, or just slow doon?”

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Times of India (India) – Amputees could feel artificial limb if put in the virtual world. “Anthony Steed, a computer scientist at UCL, studied how the rubber hand illusion Movie Camera works in virtual worlds. In the standard illusion, a false hand is placed on a table in front of a volunteer whose real hand is out of view, and both are stroked at the same time. After a while people feel a sensation in the rubber hand, even when it is the only one being touched. And now, it has been discovered that people relate to virtual appendages so strongly that much of the set-up work normally needed to pull off the illusion is unnecessary in virtual environments.”

2. The Drum (UK) – Are Virtual Worlds like Second Life still viable marketing tools? “When The Drum received a press release a couple of weeks ago from digital company Corporation Pop describing an online graduation ceremony it had planned with fuel company BP through virtual world Second Life, groans were clearly heard. “Second Life? I thought that was dead,” said one member of the team, thus inspiring this piece. With Avatar becoming the most commercially successful movie in history, it seems odd that the platform which would have inspired much of the film seems to have had its day with the online user. Then again, the Lawnmower man was no advert for virtual reality which did okay for a while.”

3. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – TeamPalz Launching Sports-Themed World. “This Saturday will be heading for a public launch. The new kids virtual world aims at bringing together online socializing with kids’ love for real world sports. There are plenty of sports-themed worlds out there (e.g., ActionAllstars, the NFL’s own world, ToppsTown, UpperDeckU, etc.) that have partnerships or licensing agreements with leagues or teams. While TeamPalz is currently avoiding costly licenses and partnerships, it’s hoping to capitalize on an untapped audience. “TeamPalz is very gender neutral,” explained Co-Founder Kevin Bernadt. “During our research of other sports-themed virtual worlds, almost all of them seemed very male-centric. Girls’ sports are a huge under-marketed force out there, and we’re including sports such as softball, dance, cheer, and make sure our basketball and soccer experiences are friendly for both girls and boys. Volleyball will be one of the first sports we add down the line.”

4. The Guardian (UK) – Living the dream through computer games. “The inspiration for this week’s Observer Conversation is a fascinating piece by the American writer Tom Bissell which will be in this Sunday’s paper. In it Tom describe his life disintegrating as he becomes hooked on the computer game series Grand Theft Auto and then also on cocaine. Here’s a guy who would regularly spend 30 hours straight running over pedestrians and shooting drug dealers, policemen and prostitutes, all the while bleeding from the nose. In the paper’s latest editorial conference meeting, where we shape the weekend’s edition, we also discussed a new game called Smokescreen, which has been a big hit at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. It’s a game about life online, on a new social network called White Smoke, containing elements of horror and which frankly I’ve yet to fully understand. Perhaps its like a cranked up version of Cluedo: “Your friend Miffy murdered Bob in the Save 6Music site with a Farmville rotovator”.

5. Newsweek (USA) – Money for Nothing. “If you’ve spent time on Facebook, you might be mystified by all the people tending to their virtual farms and virtual pets. I know I am. Not only does this seem a strange way to spend time, but here’s the even weirder part: a lot of these people are spending real money to buy virtual products, like pretend guns and fertilizer, to gain advantage in these Web-based games. But to Kristian Segerstrale this is very serious business, and not only because he runs Playfish, a maker of online games and a top seller of virtual goods. Segerstrale, an economist by training, says the world of virtual goods opens up a new way to study economics. “You can learn a lot about human behavior, and how people interoperate in an economic environment,” he says. “There are a lot of valuable lessons.”

6. Directions Magazine (USA) – Masternaut Three X Integrates Real and Virtual Worlds with Augmented Reality for Field Service Management. “Masternaut Three X launched an advanced camera phone application that enables digital images to be displayed together with associated business data. This augmented reality (AR) solution is targeted at organizations in need of vehicle tracking and mobile resource management technology for more efficient field service operations. Editor in Chief Joe Francica interviewed Masternaut’s Johann Levy, the research and development manager, about the AR application.”

7. Financial Times (UK) – Corporate learning: Out of body experiences are ‘in’. “Teams operating in a virtual world face the challenge of constructing a bridge across a stretch of water to an island, using a set of blocks. One team spots that some of the blocks are weightless. They quickly string these together, march their avatars across the bridge, and declare victory. The other teams of business school students cry foul, but the winners deserve their triumph because they avoided making assumptions, says Steve Mahaley, director of learning technology at Duke Corporate Education in North Carolina. One way to shed new light on old problems is to take people completely out of their element, he says. “Virtual worlds let us test people’s understanding of the nature of the problem and help highlight their assumptions, such as whether all the blocks are subject to gravity, and if the other teams are rivals or potential collaborators.”

8. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – Teleplace focuses on app sharing. “When business users get together for a virtual meeting, they’re not interested in showing off the latest dance moves or hairstyles – they want to share PowerPoint presentations, work together on spreadsheets, and collaborate on documents. At least, that’s the experience of virtual world vendor Teleplace, which counts over 100 corporations as customers – some of them big names, including Chevron, BP, Lockheed, Intel, and Fidelity. In addition, the company has a strong presence in the government and military sectors, counting the US Army, Navy, and Air Force as customers. Teleplace revenues grew 200 percent over the past year, the company reported last month. Teleplace Inc. used to be Qwaq Inc., and changed its name last September, timed to coincide with the release of the 3.0 version of its platform.”

9. Boston Globe (USA) – Tag for the gamer generation. “IT WAS awkward this semester when a zombie and a zombie-epidemic survivor both showed up in my undergraduate creative writing workshop. I’d heard tales of Humans vs. Zombies battles raging on campuses across the country. What was surprising, though, was that this bizarre game struck me as an antidote for the ailments of a generation. Humans vs. Zombies is a massive game of tag. One player starts as the zombie, what we used to call “being it.’’ All others are human. Both wear official bandanas on their arms. Zombies tie a second bandana around their heads. When a zombie tags a human, the human becomes a zombie.”

10. Kotaku (Australia) – Video Games Can Save The Planet, But Only If We Play More. “Only video games can save the world, says Jane McGonigal, but only if we dedicate more time to playing them, some 21 billion hours of game time per week needed to survive the next century. McGonigal, director of game research and development at Institute for the Future and one of the people behind the do-good game Urgent Evoke. presented her theory that playing video games can save the world’s problems – hunger, poverty, climate change, obesity, global conflict – at this year’s TED conference. (That stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design by the way.) Her argument? We’re “better at games than we are in real life”, and are more inclined to do good in video games.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Disturbia (Second Life) filmed in Ashton Heights

2. Ed Clarity TV 3-15-2010 (Second Life)


Virtual worlds and business: 2010 overview

A little over a year ago we created a short discussion paper on the potential impact of virtual worlds on business. Since that time literally hundreds of people have downloaded the paper, so we thought it was worth updating it.

It remains a fairly succinct overview of the opportunities presented by virtual environments in the enterprise, as well as identifying some of the misconceptions around. The updated version now contains some discussion on trends for the coming 12-months (partly based on our 2010 predictions post) as well as a wrap-up of the major platforms to watch.

You can download Virtual Worlds and business: 2010 overview for free by going to this page.

As always, if there’s omissions or alterations needed, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

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