The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Log on for a dose of reality. “Fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, my then employer sent me to a conference on “business communications”. It was a largely forgettable and dreary two-day event, the high point of which, I seem to recall, was the muffins at morning and afternoon tea. Baked goods aside, the only thing I remember with any clarity was part of a presentation by a chap from, of all places, the NRMA. Mr NRMA recommended some rules we should adopt at work when using this newfangled email thing. Bear in mind that this was in the dim pre-history of the web. Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube were barely a gleam in the eyes of a few hardcore geeks.Most of us were still grappling with the ground rules of how we should behave towards each other online.”

2. Stuff.co.nz (New Zealand) – Big brother watches in this virtual world. “RICK Earl is a virtual world sheriff. The 34-year-old Aucklander is executive producer and director of Customer Support for SmallWorlds, a Kiwi-created international virtual community with more than 350,000 active users every month. Earl is largely responsible for writing the rulebook on SmallWorlds’ crime and deciding the consequences for breaking it. He deals with everything from swearing to attempted grooming for under-age sex. In the R13 SmallWorlds, users can create up to five avatars [on-line alter egos] to interact with each other and trade virtual property. Virtual users’ representations are often idealised versions of themselves, and are free to engage in activities often beyond users’ abilities in real life. Earl said SmallWorlds, which has been designed with age 13+ players in mind, is cartoon-like with no nudity and it filters swearwords automatically.”

3. Inside Social Games (USA) – World Cup Goods Fill Facebook’s Virtual Stores. “The sale of virtual goods has always been a primary monetization method for social games, and with the world’s most popular sport, soccer, already in the heat of the 2010 World Cup, you can bet that a number of social developers are taking advantage. We’ve already tracked a number of recently-released soccer apps, so below we’re taking a closer look at what non-sports games are doing in recognition of what is, arguably, the world’s largest sporting event.”

4. VentureBeat (USA) – Which startups will bridge the physical and virtual worlds? “In our pockets sits unprecedented processing power, in the form of smartphones that are morphing into superphones. And they’re on the verge of having next-level software that can provide us with deeper immersion and more interactive experiences. As networks improve, we’ll roam the world virtually, seeking relevant information regardless of time and place. Still, there is a gap between the physical world and the digital experience of it. The question: How do we cross it?”

5. ZDNet Asia (Singapore) – S’pore tech shines at CommunicAsia 2010. “Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) showcases some of its market-ready technologies at the trade show. The exhibition is organized by two of its arms–Institute for Infocomm Research which focuses on research and development and commercialization wing Exploit Technologies. In what looks like a CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) setup, A*Star shows off its digital forensic evidence and file recovery technology. A spokersperson explained that the files are stored in fragmentation on the hard disk, and contrary to popular belief, files do not disappear when deleted but become shreds of unrelated memory. Contrasted with “state-of-the-art”, commercially-available technology seen on the right, which is only able to recover two-thirds of a deleted image, A*STAR’s technology is able to completely recover a deleted file. A*Star achieves this through its “patent-pending technology” using a novel algorithm with more complex scenarios, she said.”

6. BusinessLine (India) – World’s becoming more ‘playful’. “What do video games do? They amplify particular human tendencies — our innate hunger for learning, our delight in solving problems and challenges, our sociability and rivalries, our pleasure in escaping the uncertainties of the world for more predictable rewards — says Tom Chatfield in Fun Inc. (www.landmarkonthenet.com). He adds that, additionally, ‘games as interactive systems increasingly connect to the ways in which we work, communicate, plan and express ourselves in a digital age, a process that is making the world more playful, and where the business of play is becoming ever broader and more profitable.’ Over the next half-century, in the author’s view, video games are going to become as much a part of everyone’s daily experience as television, radio, automobiles, refrigerators, type and the written word. Another certainty that he sees in video games is money, lots of it!”

7. San Diego Business Journal (USA) – In a Galaxy Far, Far Away … “While console games such as those played on a Sony PlayStation or Microsoft’s X Box still dominate the video gaming industry, a shift is under way that will result in a much larger amount of revenue coming from online games such as a new one now in beta testing at San Diego’s Sony Online Entertainment. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures” hasn’t been released yet, but when it is sometime in the fall, the game is expected to garner a lot of attention, not only from a target group of young boys from ages 6 to 14, but from their parents, who grew up with characters such as Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. “We want to make this game a destination where kids can play with their parents,” says Taina Rodriguez, spokeswoman for SOE, which makes its headquarters in Sorrento Valley with some 500 employees locally. To ensure that the Star Wars game has the highest level of authenticity, the folks at SOE worked closely with LucasArts, the video game division of Lucasfilm, which created the blockbuster movie that is still generating revenue for the company.”

8. VentureBeat (USA) – Rixty, Coinstar turn spare change into virtual goods. “Rixty has a system that lets kids and other gamers turn in their coins at stores and then get credits that they can spend in online games. Today, the company says that more than 50 companies have signed up to integrate its alternative payment method into games. With Rixty, you can break that piggybank and take your coins or cash to 20,000 locations such as Coinstar coin-counting machines in grocery stores. The machines count your coins and give youcredit (via a 16-digit pin code) to spend on games. So far, Rixty’s users are spending an average of $30 a month on games. The users spend about $28 a month for games on Facebook.”

9. Tekrati (USA) – Immersive Tech Experts at ThinkBalm End Research Operations. “Erica Driver has announced that she will depart ThinkBalm next month, citing slower than expected enterprise adoption of immersive technologies. While partner Sam Driver will continue consulting with clients on immersive technologies, the firm will discontinue industry research operations and disband the ThinkBalm Innovation Community. Ms. Driver will join QlikView in July as senior director of Global Partner Marketing. ThinkBalm has been dedicated to enterprise adoption of immersive technologies — including virtual worlds, immersive learning environments, and virtual event platforms — since its founding. The small firm has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments during its two-year run: a blue ribbon client list, valuable research available free of charge, and a vibrant community of innovators. ”

10. The Ledger (USA) –Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday. “ON a Tuesday evening this spring, Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, became part man and part machine. About 40 people, all gathered here at a NASA campus for a nine-day, $15,000 course at Singularity University, saw it happen. While the flesh-and-blood version of Mr. Brin sat miles away at a computer capable of remotely steering a robot, the gizmo rolling around here consisted of a printer-size base with wheels attached to a boxy, head-height screen glowing with an image of Mr. Brin’s face. The BrinBot obeyed its human commander and sputtered around from group to group, talking to attendees about Google and other topics via a videoconferencing system. The BrinBot was hardly something out of “Star Trek.” It had a rudimentary, no-frills design and was a hodgepodge of loosely integrated technologies. Yet it also smacked of a future that the Singularity University founders hold dear and often discuss with a techno-utopian bravado: the arrival of the Singularity — a time, possibly just a couple decades from now, when a superior intelligence will dominate and life will take on an altered form that we can’t predict or comprehend in our current, limited state.”

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