The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. MCV (UK) – World’s first virtual football world. “Football Superstars is a free to play football MMO, published by UK Company CyberSports. It is the world’s first virtual footballing world – an interactive online virtual world designed for football fans to live a top footballer’s lifestyle and is due for release in late 2008. Once downloaded, players re-create themselves online as a footballer and then have free reign in the state of the art interactive virtual world. Players can play their way from three-a-side up to eleven-a-side matches, gaining attributes and skills in order to specialise in their chosen playing position.”

2. The London Free Press (Canada) – Public health enters virtual world. “The young denizens of Whyville never saw the dreaded Whyflu coming — though in retrospect, the flu clinic that mysteriously popped up in their virtual world a few weeks earlier should have been a clue. Avatars who hadn’t received a flu shot started coming down with the Whyflu, sneezing every time they tried to communicate with their online friends.”

3. HR Zone (UK) – The virtual world of recruiting. “The use of virtual worlds as a recruitment tool has been much hyped of late – TMP hosted the UK’s first ever ‘virtual world’ careers fair last year; Kelly Services launched its own island in Second Life; and GCHQ, the government intelligence organisation, has been advertising in online gaming to tempt web-savvy graduates to become spies. But how is it possible and what does it mean to use virtual worlds as a recruitment tool? Is this wave of technology really going to dwarf social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace? Is it merely an over-hyped media gimmick or the next evolution of the web?”

4. BBC News – Web worlds ‘useful’ for children. “Virtual worlds can be valuable places where children rehearse what they will do in real life, reveals research. They are also a “powerful and engaging” alternative to more passive pursuits such as watching TV, said the BBC-sponsored study. The research was done with children using the BBC’s Adventure Rock virtual world, aimed at those aged 6-12.”

5. Computerworld (Norway) – When virtual worlds die. “Think pulling the plug on a relatively small and slightly aged social virtual world is easy? That’s what Disney apparently thought, when it announced plans to shutter its free Virtual Magic Kingdom service. Even though the VMK userbase is small (just over one thousand were online when I checked this morning, and now almost 4000 are online at 7:30 in the evening, eastern time) they are extremely dedicated, and are taking news of the closure quite badly, according to the Wall Street Journal and other sources. There have been petitions, angry blog posts, and even a tiny real-world demonstration outside of Disney HQ.”

6. The Associated Press – Researchers teach ‘Second Life’ avatar to think. “Edd Hifeng barely merits a second glance in “Second Life.” A steel-gray robot with lanky limbs and linebacker shoulders, he looks like a typical avatar in the popular virtual world.
But Edd is different. His actions are animated not by a person at a keyboard but by a computer. Edd is a creation of artificial intelligence, or AI, by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who endowed him with a limited ability to converse and reason. It turns out “Second Life” is more than a place where pixelated avatars chat, interact and fly about. It’s also a frontier in AI research because it’s a controllable environment where testing intelligent creations is easier.”

7. The Age – Second Life provides virtual classrooms. “Two Queensland universities are using an online virtual world to reach students. The University of Queensland has commissioned a builder to construct a virtual Great Hall on the three-dimensional online virtual world Second Life – where millions of “residents” from across the world build their own homes, go shopping, go on holiday and interact with each other.”

8. Times Online (UK) – The office psychologist. Second (corporate) Life. “The boundaries between work and personal life have been blurring for years, but the next generation of office technology will mush them into a social gloop. Software designers have leapt on to the social networking bandwagon to make communicating with colleagues more fun. After all, what’s the difference between sitting in front of a screen updating your Facebook biog and sitting in front of a screen typing marketing reports?”

9. The Age – Kremlin critic gets genital reminder about who’s in charge. “rmer world chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov has been on the receiving end of an unconventional prank launched by his political foes – one that draws its inspiration from the virtual world of Second Life. Kasparov was attending a weekend meeting of a coalition of opposition groups which had assembled in Moscow to launch a symbolic alternative parliament. As he was addressing the gathering of more than 500 delegates, he was buzzed by a remote-controlled flying phallus.”

10. IGN – Age of Conan First Impressions. “You may have noticed the lack of a review for Funcom’s Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures on IGN. It’s not because we’ve been avoiding play time. Since the game launched in the United States on Tuesday, we’ve been slugging our way through its content every day. The simple fact of the matter is games of the massively multiplayer online genre are enormous; they’re meant to be played and enjoyed for years. It’s not exactly a quick, efficient process when trying to decide how to deliver any kind of definitive word.”

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