The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. 7thSpace – TORC at UH turns to virtual world of Second Life for new study. “The University of Houston department of health and human performance is launching an international effort to recruit 500 participants for a study promoting healthy dietary habits and physical activity. The study will take place entirely in the virtual world of Second Life (SL).” (Also – see our report on Metaverse Health)

2. Network World – 10 questions for virtual world evangelists (Microsoft’s) Zain Naboulsi, and (G-Squared’s) Kyle Gomboy. “Welcome to a new regular feature of this blog … “10 questions for … ” where we talk to interesting people in the Microsoft world through a series of 10 questions (more or less, but who’s counting?) Think of this as a cross between James Lipton (Actor’s Studio) and Robert Scoble (Scobleizer). For the inaugural entry in the series, Microsoft Subnet interviewed two of the people responsible for Microsoft’s presence in Second Life and other virtual worlds.”

3. The Industry Standard – Playboy’s Second Life sim buzzes, even as real-world brand falters. “PaidContent reported earlier this week that Playboy is having a difficult time extending its brand online. Citing a Q2 loss, including declines in online and mobile content categories, it’s easy to assume that Playboy has failed to effectively position its brand on the Web. However, the publisher appears to be succeeding in an unlikely place: Second Life. After launching its virtual world presence early in Q2 last year, rumors abounded that Playboy was pulling up its stakes. Clickable Culture was sure that the Playboy sim was all but abandoned by late July of 2007.”

4. The Houston Chronicle – ‘Avatar’ has taken on life of its own and not just online. “In 2001, the decidedly literate nerd-rock group Harvey Danger penned and sang the lines “I bowed before the avatar / He said the problem’s clear to me / You never got over Morrissey.” The rock cognoscenti would have no trouble identifying the mopey crooner Steven Morrissey of the Smiths, but they may have wondered what precisely an avatar is. Nowadays Harvey Danger would find themselves in no such peril, as avatar appears to be everywhere, though not in the sense that they intended.”

5. MarketWatch – Linden Lab Appoints Frank Ambrose as Senior VP of Global Technology. “Linden Lab(R), creator of the virtual world Second Life(R), today announced the appointment of Frank Ambrose as Senior VP of Global Technology. Ambrose has 20 years of experience in technology infrastructure development, data architecture and operations, including his most recent role as AOL’s Senior Vice President of Technology for Infrastructure and Network Services. Reporting to Linden Lab’s CEO, Mark Kingdon, Ambrose will oversee the development of new processes, systems and tools to maximize the scalability of Second Life’s network architecture.”

6. Wired – Is the Army’s Virtual World Already Here? “The Army wants to build a World of Warcraft-style virtual world for training, DANGER ROOM reported a couple weeks back. “There have been a number of partial explorations in this direction, but nothing near a complete system has been created to our knowledge,” Dr. Roger Smith, an Army researcher, told us. But one commercial game maker insists that’s not true. “There is such a game already in existence,” says John MacQueen from Playnet.”

7. What PC? – Very real legal issues exist in a virtual world. “The past few years have seen the entry of major brands such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, BMW and Dell into the virtual world Second Life, alongside millions of traditional individual users. Businesses typically use Second Life as a marketing tool to raise brand awareness and as a shop window for products, but it is also used for direct sales and recruitment.”

8. redOrbit – Virtual World in Wii Games is a Fitness Hit You Can Run, Play and Watch It All Unfold With a Cartoon Version of Yourself. “As Kathy Winstead was going for a run one recent day in Ponte Vedra Beach, she saw mountains ahead, as well as waterfalls and fellow runners who waved as they jogged by. “What will they think of next? Rose Signorile, 90, asked as she watched Winstead, 66, exercise with a Nintendo Wii Fitness program at The Players Community Senior Center. Winstead was actually running in place in a classroom at the center on Landrum Lane while watching a cartoon version of herself, on a television screen, running through the beautiful mountain park.”

9. VentureBeat – Six Degrees Games raises $7M for sports virtual world. “Virtual world creator Six Degrees Games has taken $7 million to develop a world for six to 14 year old children with a sports theme. The funding is the company’s first.”

10. CNET – Want to screw up a virtual world experiment? Here’s how. “An island all to yourselves sounds dreamy if you’re planning a vacation with your spouse. But not so in the virtual world, where that sort of solitude is potential poison for companies setting up shop.”

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