The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. New York Times (USA) – Keyboards First. Then Grenades. “Brig. Gen. Harold J. Greene only has to look around his house to realize the challenges the Army faces in engaging young soldiers. His children, he says, are always “buried in a cellphone or an iPad.” General Greene, a senior official in the Army’s research and development engineering command, is among a cadre of high-ranking officials pushing for the military to embrace technologies that are already popular among consumers, like smartphones, video games and virtual worlds. The goal is to provide engaging training tools for soldiers who have grown up using sophisticated consumer electronics and are eager to incorporate them into their routine. At a time of shrinking budgets, these tools are viewed as relatively inexpensive supplements to larger, costlier training equipment while also providing a surprisingly realistic training experience.”

2. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – The virtual is magic. “I know the iPad is supposed to be magical. But, to me, it doesn’t come close to the magic I feel inside Second Life and OpenSim worlds. When I’m on a grid, I can wave my virtual arms and have things appear out of thin (virtual) air. I can change my clothes at will. Even change my whole body. I can teleport. I can fly. Normally, these things are only possible for Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I’ve wanted to have magical powers ever since I was a kid. Who hasn’t? Of course, virtual magical powers have some of the same limitations as Sabrina’s did. Fans of the show might remember that she wasn’t allowed to magically create brand-name products. Instead, she and visiting friends had to eat Schnickers, N and N’s and Butterthumb candy and drink Popsi. Instead of “You-Hoo,” she served “Hey, over here.”

3. The Journal Review (USA) – Web-based games replace traditional toys. “Sure you trust a purple dinosaur. But what about a green penguin? How do you know when a Web site for kids isn’t just a marketing gimmick or a meaningless time-waster? It can be hard to tell. But with Web games replacing Cabbage Patch dolls, Barbie and Legos as some kids’ favorite toys, parents need to know how to manage these online games. Club Penguin, Webkinz, Neopets, Dizzywood, Millsberry and others are online playgrounds for kids ages 6-8. They’re called virtual worlds, because they create entirely new and different environments for your children.
Typically, your children will create an avatar (a cartoon character of themselves), which they can dress up and play with in the game. Then they create their own “room,” which they can decorate and where they store all of the items they win or buy with virtual money.”

4. Technorati (USA) – Los Angeles Games Conference – Money For Nothing? How To Succeed In Selling Virtual Goods for Games and Social Networks. “The panel was moderated by Jay Baage who is the Event Director for the LA Games Conference. He lead off with some of the biggest news which concerns Facebook Credits, which will be launching 1 July , 2011. Facebook Credits will be launching its in-site currency transactional system that will allow users to purchase items in games as well as non-gaming applications. Rob Uhrich, Senior Director of PaymentsOne talked how payment methods need stream-lining as different countries use different transaction methods and in the US, most web-sites offer way too many ways to accept money making the experience messy. Teemu Huuhtanen, EVP, Business Dev. and Communications of Habbo spoke about how their web-site fosters a virtual business community that is driven by the gamers’s demands. Their “economy” functions much like the stock-market as prices adjust in real-time.”

5. MSNBC (USA) – Browse sites and cash in? TV, film fans are game. “Social gamers know virtual worlds such as FarmVille and Bejeweled Blitz all too well, but a new form of online gaming is infiltrating the entertainment industry by rewarding viewers with big prizes for sharing articles, making comments and watching trailers about their favorite TV shows and movies. From TV shows such as “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Top Chef”” and “Psych” to the recently released box office hit “Rio,” more people are logging online to visit TV and movie sites, read news and interact with their favorite shows and films. But to give people incentive to return to these sites, entertainment companies and various brands are making the browsing experience a game, allowing visitors to compete with other fans to get points that can be redeemed for prizes, such as brand merchandise, trips and cash prizes.”

6. The Guardian (UK) – Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal – review. “Excluding extinction, science fiction has traditionally imagined three possible futures for intelligent species: the stable, the exponential and the solipsistic. A stable future means reaching equilibrium, while an exponential one means expansion at an ever-increasing rate. A solipsistic future is the most intriguing, however – for this means a complete retreat from the universe into some other, manufactured realm. Solipsism answers the physicist Enrico Fermi’s famous question, “Where are all the aliens?”, with a simple proposal: they’re all playing computer games. Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken makes it clear that humanity is starting to face a related question. Globally, we now play over 3bn hours of video games each week. We are seeing a mass migration of human effort, attention, relationships and identities towards artificial worlds designed expressly to entertain and enthral us. What does this mean – and what might we learn from it?”

7. Computing (UK) – If you’re going to build, build smart. “When Birmingham City University (BCU) got the go-ahead to build a state-of-the-art building to re-house its prestigious Birmingham Institute of Art and Design facilities there were plenty of opportunities to re-think technology delivery. Primarily, how could we integrate the building’s management and environmental systems controlling such services as heating, lighting and air-conditioning with the university’s business systems to get all of the advantages that we’d heard about from a “smart” building. Smart buildings save on life-cycle costs and help mitigate the environmental effects of construction. Important issues when you consider that according to IBM by 2025 buildings will use more energy than any other category of consumer.”

8. The Boston Globe (USA) – Eye-tracking video game device subs for mouse. “I suppose there are obstacles that can come between you and victory in the fantasy video games Darkspore and Diablo. If you are a young gamer, Mom and Dad might object to the violence in these titles. Or you might lack the patience to follow the storylines. And then there are those who would play more games on their PC computers if they had something easier to use than remote controllers and keyboards. So that people with limited use of their hands might enjoy the pleasures of gaming, a Dutch engineering student at Northeastern University is developing a new interface system, one that uses an eye-tracking device and a data-gathering glove to replace the inputs most of us use with PCs.”

9. Fast Company (USA) – Blame It On The Youth. “If you want to know where the future is headed, sometimes telling clues reside in how the youth of the world interact and share with one another. With the rise of the Golden Triangle of technology, mobile, social, and real-time, technology is not just for the geeks, technology is part of our lifestyle…it is part of who we are. However, as we are all coming to learn, it’s not in what we have, it’s in how we use it that says everything about us. The way we use technology, whether it’s hardware or social networks for example, the differences are are striking. But something disruptive, this way comes. And the truth is, it’s been a long time coming. How we consume information is moving away from the paper we hold in our hands and also the inner sanctum of family, the living rooms where we huddle around televisions. In fact, Forrester Research recently published a report that documented, for the first time, we spend as much time online as we do in front of a television. Indeed the battle for your attention will materialize across the four screens, TV, PC, mobile, and tablets.”

10. The Guardian (UK) – 100m downloads for Outfit7′s Talking Friends apps – will Disney come calling? “There is now some more wildlife to file alongside Angry Birds in the ’100m app downloads’ club. US developer Outfit7 says its Talking Friends apps have also passed the milestone, and faster than Rovio Mobile’s feathery game franchise too. The first Talking Friend app – Talking Tom Cat – was launched for iPhone in July 2010, less than 10 months ago. Nine other apps have since been released by Outfit7, including versions for Android and iPad. The company says it notched up 41m downloads in the first five months, added another 44m in the next three months, and then notched up the next 15m in little over a month.”

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    Smart savings in construction costs of the life cycle and help reduce the environmental impact of construction. Are amps should be inconceivable. But for me, not the way I feel wonderful world of Second Life and OpenSim.

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