The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. io9 (USA) – 7 Failed Virtual Reality Technologies. “There was a time when people were calling home virtual reality the wave of the future. Now most people just call it goofy and expensive. Here are 7 virtual reality technologies that didn’t work, and never will. In what may be considered the first case of virtual reality reaching beyond its own limitations, Morton Heilig unveiled the Sensorama in 1962. It was a large box that enclosed the viewer’s head and displayed a stereoscopic 3D movie. The seat tilted and the box unleashed wind and smells. And all of this was accomplished mechanically.”

2. Federal News Radio (USA) – Beyond ‘heads-up’: augmented reality for virtual worlds. “Fans of the science fiction television show Star Trek: The Next Generation are certainly familiar with the ‘holodeck’, a room where powerful computers create realistic virtual environments. That’s the fictional model for what virtual worlds researchers are developing in labs all around the world today. Recently, several of the top names in the realm of ‘augmented reality’ presented an update on their work at the recent Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference at the National Defense University at Fort McNair. Dr. Maribeth Grandy from Georgia Tech is one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic of augmented reality for virtual worlds.
“Augmented reality can mean many different things. Traditionally, you’re registering 3D graphics with the world, and the user is experiencing that virtual content through a head-mounted display, or a tablet computer that is acting as a ‘magic window’, or a projector. More recently, I’ve been working in the mobile domain, where you can use something like your IPhone as a little magic window.”

3. Fox News (USA) – College Plans Virtual Graduation for Online Students. “Many colleges and universities offer online courses. But only one’s having an online graduation. Bryant & Stratton College, a for-profit institution with campuses in four states, plus an online division, plans to host a graduation ceremony June 10 in Second Life, the online virtual world. Fittingly, the commencement address will be delivered by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale.”

4. VentureBeat (USA) – Small Worlds and Hi5 combine virtual world and social networking. “In a marriage of games and social networks, SmallWorlds has teamed up with social network Hi5 to open up SmallWorlds’ cartoon-like virtual world to Hi5’s 60 million monthly visitors.
Hi5’s users can use Hi5’s games channel to access the browser-based virtual environment of SmallWorlds, which has hundreds of casual games available to play. Hi5’s games channel has become a major focus for revenue generation for the San Francisco-based social network. With the alliance in place, users can pay for items in the virtual world using Hi5’s virtual currency, Hi5 coins, said Ted Tagami, vice president of business development for Small Worlds. The deal is good for SmallWorlds because it broadens its potential audience – Hi5 is a top 20 web destination with huge followings in Latin America and Europe.”

5. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – In-world Sound Gets Upgrade from Cornell Researchers. “One look at the environment in Second Life, for example, and the conscious mind knows it is dealing with a virtual world; the same occurs while attending a virtual event. Still, developers do their best to enhance the in-world experience, using every trick in the book to nudge one toward a suspension of disbelief. Take sound. It helps that the Second Life servers manage VOIP as they do — making it proximity based, tuning the vocals based on relative position to, and distance between, avatars.”

6. Toronto Star (Canada) – Keeping it under control. “Steven Spielberg came down from his mountain (of money?) this week, eyes blazing with prophetic fire, to deliver a pronouncement to the rabble of international gaming media gathered at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. “The only way to bring interactive entertainment to everybody,” he declared from his green-glowing pulpit at Microsoft’s press event, “is to make the technology invisible. Only then can we shine the spotlight where it belongs, which is on you.” Like millions of other game-news junkies around the world, I received this sermon remotely, through my laptop screen in the comfort of my couch, and it’s a sermon those millions and I have heard many times before.”

7. The Advocate (USA) – Virtual Gays Say “I Do”. “Gays and lesbians can now get married all over the world — the virtual world, at least. After playing The Sims 3 for a week, Lyle Masaki at discovered that gay couples can now marry. Earlier versions of the game only allowed same-sex couples to move in together and declare unions. The Sims 3, which debuted at this week’s E3 electronics entertainment expo, builds on its hugely popular predecessors The Sims and The Sims 2 from video game developer Electronic Arts. The game allows players to create and control virtual characters and communities.”

8. Kotaku (USA) – The Sims 3 Review: Delayed Gratification. “After a more than three month delay—and more than four years on from the release of The Sims 2—The Sims 3 is finally here. So let’s get down to reviewing it. There are two types of Sims player: the Second-Life types who enjoy crafting and sharing stuff online and the God-types who look for new and interesting ways to terrorize their virtual dollies. The Sims 3 has room enough for both types in its expansive gameplay and online-feature set that lets you create and share everything from couch patterns to machinima. The once-narrow world of the Sims has been expanded to a persistent environment where Sims can freely walk from one lot to the next, the town around them progressing instead of freezing ‘til your Sim arrives on the scene. This makes the life cycle of the Sims more fluid; as your Sims grows old, so too do all the Sims around him or her. ”

9. O’Reilly Radar (USA) – 3D Glasses: Virtual Reality, Meet the iPhone. “A light flickers from two distinct points in time. As a child in the early-1970s, one of my toys was a View-Master, a binoculars-like device for viewing 3D images (called stereograms), essentially a mini-program excerpted from popular destinations, TV shows, cartoons, events and the like. The View-Master completely predated the advent of electronic toys (it was light powered and human click driven), but it was dumb simple to operate, and the 3D viewing experience was quirky cool. Plus, the content was customizable (just pop in a different program card) and for its time, it was engaging (sound could play on top of each image, making it even more so). Flash forward, and it’s 1992. I am reading Mondo 2000, a long since deceased magazine that was at the bleeding edge of the technology wave that was to come. Total reboot in terms of re-thinking and re-imaging the schema of the possible.”

10. Daily Kos (USA) – Kossacks in Second Life. “I first started working in Second Life as a library assistant, helping the campus library I work for develop its virtual presence to complement the programs already being developed in distance education through the university. As I continued working in Second Life, however, I realized I also needed friends there, as well, in addition to just working. No woman is an island, even in a virtual world. That’s when I started seeking out folks who were like me. I wanted the same environment I found at Daily Kos — a fun mix of diverse views and strong progressive values.”

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