The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Report: Virtual Worlds Growth to Skyrocket. “Market research firm Strategy Analytics today released its forecast for growth within the virtual worlds sector and to say it sees growth would be an understatement. Overall, the firm said it sees the global population of virtual world users growing from 186 million today to almost 640 million by 2015 — that’s almost one hundred million new players a year, a nearly 25 percent compounded annual growth rate. The fastest growing demographic is kids between the ages of 5 and 9 which the company predicts will grow 27 percent; the current largest segment of virtual worlds players, tweens and teens, should grow by some 21 percent, according to the company.”

2. UQ News (Australia) – Virtual worlds and video games explored at teaching conference. “Not all academic conferences include sessions on the Nintendo Wii, but an upcoming UQ event is happy to explore new boundaries in the name of better teaching. Taking place on June 18 at St Lucia, the Blended Learning Conference will link researchers from Australia and abroad to discuss innovative approaches to education. Among the participants are Caroline Steel and Dr Helen Farley – two UQ researchers who are helping establish virtual learning environments in the realm of Second Life. Dr Farley, who holds joint appointments with UQ’s Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology (CEIT) and the School of Philosophy, Religion and Classics, said the applications of virtual learning were endless.”

3.VentureBeat (USA) – Intel Labs prototypes virtual world for scientists. “Intel is showing off a number of cool research projects today at its research day event in Santa Clara, Calif. But the coolest of all is a project called ScienceSim, which is an effort to create interconnected 3-D virtual worlds that scientists can use for experiments. The worlds will be able to connect to each other as needed, says Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner. The company will debut the effort, in concert with university researchers, at the SuperComputing 09 conference later this year. The idea is to create a prototype of what Rattner says will become the “3D Internet.” The research platform will focus on immersive scientific collaboration and will be based on the OpenSim technology.”

4. OC Register (USA) – ‘World of Warcraft’ quest leads to Laguna. “Get your orcs, trolls, elves, dwarves and Forsaken ready.
The “World of Warcraft” has descended upon a museum near you. The Laguna Art Museum has recently opened a new exhibition, “WoW: Emergent Media Phenomenon,” which explores artwork created for and inspired by the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The show runs through Oct. 4. For those of you who don’t play video or online games, “World of Warcraft” is a highly graphic computer-based experience with an intensely loyal following – about 11.5 million subscribers. Created by Blizzard Entertainment, which is headquartered in Irvine, “WoW” (as it’s known) has spawned its own art, action figures, board games, comic books, manga and novels.”

5. Accounting Web (USA) – Taxation of virtual goods is on the drawing board. “The National Taxpayer Advocate has raised the question of whether the tax code should allow for tax-free transactions of virtual goods. Taxpayer advocate Nina Olson, in a report to the IRS earlier this year, said that in 2005, about $1 billion in real dollars changed hands in computer-based environments. Online gamers or social networkers use real money to buy virtual currency, which is then used to buy virtual goods. Those ‘goods’ can be objects, such as virtual birthday cakes posted to social networking sites, or actions, such as the ability to get to a more advanced level in an online game, explained Lora L. Abe, director of marketing for Gambit, a payments engine for online games, in Venture Beat.”

6. CrunchGear (USA) – Interview: Rob Burkinshaw, game designer and creator of homeless Sims. “Yesterday we posted about Alice and Kev, homeless Sims that exist entirely in the world of Sims 3. They are a family. Alice is a girl with the traditional adolescent pre-teen worries but she’s saddled with a father who is high-strung, hates kids, and is generally a misfit in the orderly world of the Sims. They are homeless in that they live in a house with no walls and sleep on park benches. They have no source of food except for things given to them from other Sims or stolen in the course of the day. They can’t get clean in their own home – there’s no bathroom – and Alice’s sleep is interrupted constantly by Kev’s rants. Rob Burkinshaw created the experiment, called Alice and Kev, as an examination of game theory and a test of his in-game photography skills but it quickly morphed into one of the most heart-breaking stories I’ve read in a long time.”

7. Sydney Morning Herald (USA) – Sordid world of razor gangs reborn for virtual tourists. “HE fleshpots of Sydney’s Darlinghurst and the Cross are havens for sleaze, binge drinking and boozy violence. Cocaine dealers, standover men, pimps, junkies and sex workers abound. Tales of vendettas and gang murders are vicariously thrilling law-abiding newspaper readers. The State Government, desperate to curb the escalating violence, is about to enact a law forbidding criminals from associating with each other. What’s this city coming to? The year is 1930, the days of the 6 o’clock swill, when early closing times created a lucrative market in after-hours booze. This colourful period of local history is relived in a new interactive GPS game called Razorhurst, designed by Darlinghurst resident Richard Fox.”

8. ZDNet Asia (Singapore) – Youth Olympics virtual world to debut early 2010. “Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics has been appointed to create and operate a virtual world for the inaugural Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games–the first time such a concept will be used for an Olympic event.
In a press statement Thursday, the company announced its wholly owned subsidiary, ST Electronics (Training & Simulation Systems), was awarded the contract by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore. Dubbed “Virtual World for Education and Youth Engagement”, the three-dimensional virtual world is scheduled to be ready early next year, the IDA said in a separate statement Thursday. The virtual world will help promote friendship and connect youths from the 205 territories taking part in the Games, the Authority added.”

9. (Canada) – Virtually nasty: cybersex is pushing the boundaries of human behaviour. “Was it real for you too? Human-computer sexual interaction – whether using interactive stimulus-toys or engaging your `virtual self’ in fantasy romps with mythical creatures – is slowly gaining in popularity, but as the line between the real and virtual experience blurs, sex educators are faced with some tough ethical questions. Emerging technologies offer individuals greater access to diverse sexual practices, says sex educator and online columnist Cory Silverberg, who spoke this past week at the annual Guelph Sexuality Conference in Guelph, Ont.”

10. Massively (USA) – Second Life moves to 1.23, opens adult continent, allows more content. “Linden Lab has released the new viewer, bringing Second Life up to 1.23 a few days earlier than expected, off the back of a very short release-candidate cycle. The new viewer brings three things with it: The new Adults-only continent (formerly Ursula and now Zindra), user-verification by documents or payment-status, and a new Adults-only content rating that opens up Second Life to more extreme sexual and violent content. At least so long as it is confined to the adult continent and no child avatars are involved, of course. That this was all done as a adult-continent rather than an adult-grid suggests that Linden Lab’s intergrid interoperability isn’t ready for prime-time yet.”

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