The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Age (Australia) – Students learning to be virtually anyone. “ASHAV Patel does not look like his online avatar, an athletic character with Japanese-style cartoon body, fox tail and jet pack. Likewise, Solomon Gebru’s tall, blond avatar – a rendering of Dragonball Z, the popular anime character – looks nothing like the quietly spoken boy who came to Australia nearly three years ago from Ethiopia. Quynh Chu’s online persona is taller than her petite creator. Henry Hoang’s is a fox.”

2. Reuters (USA) – Virtual detectives stalk in-game spammers. “Gamers competing against rivals around the globe in online multiplayer games have a new force protecting them — teams of virtual detectives. While some companies cause havoc with PC users via e-mail spam and viruses, a new type of spam company is targeting the huge worlds of massively multiplayer online (MMO) videogames like Activision Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft.” In-game characters controlled by individuals working for spam companies infiltrate these virtual worlds and bombard players with unsolicited ads for the sale of in-game virtual items like swords and even playable characters.”

3. The Wrap (USA) – Virtual Worlds Are Not Just Time-Wasters. “In most Q&As after my documentary on virtual worlds, “Second Skin,” I’m met with the same question, “Why spend time in virtual worlds?” I think it’s like asking, “How can you hang out with your friends for so long?” For one thing, there are few places where we are not forced to be ourselves — the anonymity we arrive to in virtual worlds is empowering. Through it, we’re able to engage others without the burden of someone recognizing us, stereotyping us, or seeing us. (Just ask celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Vin Diesel and Mila Kunis, among others, who long in like everyone else.)”

4. Los Angeles Times (USA) – Robots + virtual worlds = Robini-i. “The problem with robots is that they tend to do the same thing over and over. That’s great if it’s a robot that builds cars but boring if it’s a toy. This is something Sony learned with its Aibo robotic dog years ago. The Aibo had a small but dedicated group of hardware hackers who took joy in programming the robot to customize its movements, to play soccer or do synchronized dance moves. Alas, there were not enough hackers in the world to keep Aibo alive, and Sony put the product to sleep in 2006.”

5. Wired (USA) – A ‘Second Life’ for NATO Staffers. “NATO’s got a new plan for training up employees and running the alliance’s day-to-day business: create a virtual world. That’s right: The organization is after software models that would simulate its real-world headquarters (pictured here), as well as NATO’s North American command center, the Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Va. The 3D programs would be used for training purposes and meetings, and NATO hopes they’ll improve staff communication and productivity, while circumventing “the inhibitions to collaboration posed by physical distance and time zones.”

6. The Globe and Mail (Canada) – Queen’s Goes Virtual. “I got a press release the other day from Queen’s University about a new initiative their faculty of education is undertaking on the uber-popular online world of Second Life. Turns out the faculty has purchased a virtual “island” and filled it with replicas of their real-life Queen’s campus buildings. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Second Life, it’s a sort of virtual world where “residents” can pretty much do whatever they want. There are about 13-million such residents). The folks at Queen’s believe that virtual worlds such as Second Life are the future of education. The idea is that teachers can use these tools to recreate, say, a chunk of ancient Greece, or have their students virtually sit through a Shakespeare play during the Globe theatre’s heyday.”

7. Daily Pilot (USA) – New university site to focus on gaming. “Who said you can’t treat your college education like a game? UC Irvine’s school of information and computer science is aiming to do just that, with the establishment of the Center for Computer Games and Virtual Worlds, school officials announced Tuesday. The center, with the help of more than 20 faculty members, will aim to expand campus-wide research on the various social and technological qualities of games and virtual worlds.”

8. Los Angeles Times (USA) – ‘Gamer,’ ‘Surrogates,’ ‘Avatar’ and the meaning of (second) life. “In the old days, Hollywood tried to make thrillers that got under your skin — today it’s more about films that get you out of your skin. In a sign of the times, this Friday the blood-splattered “Gamer” begins a wave of sci-fi films that take the concepts of second life and video games into dark corners of the digital age. “Gamer” presents a world where modern flesh-and-blood gladiators (among them Gerard Butler of “300” fame) and sex slaves are controlled by a paying public sitting in front of computer screens in the leering privacy of their own homes.”

9. Stars and Stripes (USA) – A virtual world for veterans. “Pull up a virtual chair and take a load off. That’s what one researcher wants troops and veterans to do inside Chicoma Lodge, a virtual gathering spot on the Internet. The lodge is the central point of “Coming Home,” a project created by Jacquelyn Morie, who teaches at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. “It’s a VFW of the 21st century,” Morie said in a phone interview this summer. Morie is building the Chicoma Lodge inside Second Life, a virtual world on the Internet that allows people to meet, play games, shop, build dream homes, hike, vacation, play music, even date. Each person has a virtual self called an avatar that can roam from place to place to look for new activities and friends.”

10. Reuters (USA) – Starting Today: 3Di, Inc. Enables 3D Virtual Internet Shopping Experiences by Deploying 3Di OpenSim Enterprise to SANWA 3D INTERNET LAB. “3Di, Inc., which develops and offers 3D Internet solutions (Head office: Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director and CEO: Satoshi Koike; hereinafter referred to as 3Di), is proud to announce that 3Di OpenSim* Enterprise, 3Di’s server software for construction of 3D virtual worlds for enterprises, has been deployed to Sanwa Direct, the Internet shopping site run by SANWA SUPPLY INC. SANWA SUPPLY INC. is a major company which develops and wholesales computer supplies and peripherals. ”

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