The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. App Market TV (USA) – More than Second Life – It’s a Second Nation. “The electronic campfire which we gather around for news and support is a worldwide one. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and various other networks allow for people to update, keep tabs and offer useful links 24/7. They also allow for that most rare and valuable of human commodity – kindness and support in dire times. Where those have passed or fallen, there are Facebook accounts where we can leave our messages for families and friends. That we can gather around topics of interest from far flung places, keeping the conversation focused and vital is a great strength of our networking power. Twitter and Facebook are what I call flat applications or 2D applications of interaction. For those who want to flip through or read what other folks are saying, commentating along the way, possibly coming back to have an ongoing conversation, touching on some things of interest, it obviously works. There are instant messages, now voice and soon webcam will be ubiquitous. When I want real dialogue with a group of people, I log in to Second Life where my avatar, an extension of my person, can have a real–time conversation with others of “my kind.” This feeling of belonging to a virtual or Second Nation tells a lot about what virtual worlds can be. They are often left out of the social network conversation and I have wondered why because what they can offer is truly great.”

2. Search Engine Watch (USA) – Ears to the Ground: Linden Lab is Changing How it Listens to its Customers. “Change is rarely revolutionary. This is probably a good thing, as most people dislike change as a general rule. A sudden change into unfamiliar territory, even if it’s seen as a benefit, can often leave people shocked and confused. This causes them to lash out and reject change, even changes that might otherwise be beneficial (though, admittedly, some changes are frankly pretty lousy). Most changes are evolutionary. If you think that culture can’t change in an evolutionary fashion, I suggest you watch “Revenge of the Nerds.” I’m serious – if you watch it with 2011 eyes there’s parts of it that are pretty horrifying and there’s an overall “wait, but don’t those same folks just run everything now?” My, my, how things have changed.”

3. Co.Design (USA) – MoMA Preview: 12 Brilliant Projects That Explore How Tech Helps Us Talk.”If you listen carefully, deep inside MOMA’s remarkable new show, “Talk to Me: Design and Communication Between People and Objects,” you can hear the sound of a mournful howl. A wounded baboon? A lonely chimpanzee yearning for its mate? Turns out it’s Lucy, better known by her family name, Australopithecus Afarensis, the Ethiopian hominid generally considered to be the mother of humanity. Or rather, it’s what she might have sounded like, if her vocal organs had been preserved along with her skeleton. Designer Marguerite Humeau, from London’s Royal College of Art, took the skull of a chimp (close to Lucy’s size and shape), replicated what her soft tissues might have looked like, printed them in 3-D, and hooked them up to an air compressor. Turn the switch and bingo! A 3 million year old voice from the grave.”

4. Forbes (USA) – Playstation 4 ‘Eco-Concept’ Is Gorgeous. “With Nintendo recently announcing the successor to its popular Wii video game system, all eyes have shifted to Microsoft and Sony for hints of what the future holds for the the Xbox 360 and Playstation. Neither has said anything officially, though leaks here and there are starting to garner press. A DigiTimes report said Sony is prepping a new console for release in 2012; while a director of operations for chipmaker AMD claimed that the next Xbox will produce graphics rivaling the scenes in James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

5. Bellingham Herald (USA) – Welcome to the armed forces; here’s your computer. “The use of computer programs to simulate combat situations is growing in the military, despite concerns over their limitations. And as budget cutbacks hit the Defense Department, cheaper computer-training options will only become more attractive. Computer simulations have been important training tools in the military for decades. Digital computers were first used for flight simulation in the 1960s. But the gaming aspect to some simulations is relatively new. The Marine Corps bought Virtual Battlefield System 2, which creates a virtual reality environment similar to the popular Sims game, in 2001. The Marine Corps Training and Education Command boasts at least 14 different virtual training programs. Their gaming aspect, leadership at Marine Air-Ground Task Force Training Simulations Division said, is irrelevant. What’s important are the decision-making cycles that the simulations reinforce.”

6. VizWorld (USA) – The Virtual Mine Receives an Emmy Nomination. “Now this is impressive. Sand Castle Studios has a Second-Life creation called “The Virtual Mind” which strives to educate the public on the importance and dangers of mountain-top removal coal mines, coal fired power production, and alternative energies. Done as part of a documentary film called “Deep Down”, the project has now been nominated for an Emmy Award for New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming.”

7. Examiner.com (USA) – Second Life Relay For Life benefits American Cancer Society. “Second Life raises hundreds of thousands of US dollars every year for Relay For Life, and is committed to the fight against cancer. Over 95 countries are participating in this year’s RFL of SL, and the 40 sims will feature spectacular builds by some of Second Life’s most prominent builders. This year Relay for Life of Second Life past the $1,000,000US mark for the last seven years of fundraising and this year alone has already raised over $300,000US.”

8. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Sony making VR a virtual reality. “As Sony continues to evangelise the benefits of stereoscopic 3D, the Japanese giant is also working on virtual reality hardware and games. Ahead of a keynote address about the lessons learned from 3D gaming at this week’s Develop game developers conference in the United Kingdom, Sony London Studios head Mick Hocking says VR could make a comeback. Hocking tells Develop that Sony has been experimenting with adding head-tracking to their new head-mounted display with twin, high-quality OLED screens that impressed attendees at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.”

9. Washington Post (USA) – World on a Wire. “In 1973, decades before “The Matrix,” “Avatar” or “The Sims,” German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed a thriller about life within a computer simulation. Made for German TV, “World on a Wire” didn’t rate a U.S. theatrical debut until last year. Seen now, the movie seems as timely as it is outdated, its themes contemporary even if its clothing and hairdos are anything but. The 31 / 2-hour film was loosely adapted from “Simulacron-3,” a 1964 American sci-fi novel that later inspired “The Thirteenth Floor,” a 1999 Hollywood flop. But Fassbinder’s approach is quite unlike Hollywood’s. “World on a Wire” riffs on Plato’s and Descartes’s philosophies of existence, forgoes sympathetic characters and employs almost no special effects.”

10. People’s Daily (China) – Exploring potential of China’s 485 million Internet users. “According to statistics released by China Internet Network Information Center on July 19, the scope of China’s Internet users has reached 485 million and is expected to exceed 500 million by the end of 2011, with the Internet penetration rate standing at 36.2 percent. China’s Internet has undergone a radical shift from the first email sent by a Chinese person in 1987 to the “fission of speech” in the age of microblogging. From the high-tech dream of an elite minority to its integration into the lifestyle of one-third of Chinese people, Internet is relatively new in China, but its strength has been recognized as virtual reality, and its uncertainty is much more than what is known.”

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