The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Ethiopian Review – Virtual Maps For The Blind. “The blind and visually impaired often rely on others to provide cues and information on navigating through their environments. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t give them the tools to venture out on their own, says Dr. Orly Lahav of Tel Aviv University’s School of Education and Porter School for Environmental Studies. To give navigational “sight” to the blind, Dr. Lahav has invented a new software tool to help the blind navigate through unfamiliar places. It is connected to an existing joystick, a 3-D haptic device, that interfaces with the user through the sense of touch. People can feel tension beneath their fingertips as a physical sensation through the joystick as they navigate around a virtual environment which they cannot see, only feel: the joystick stiffens when the user meets a virtual wall or barrier. ”

2. The Register (UK) – Second Life slapped with counterfeit sex toy suit. “A pair of Second Life entrepreneurs are suing the game’s creator, Linden Lab, for allowing other players to sell “knockoffs” of their virtual sex organs, erotic poses, designer clothing, and other trademarked items. Kevin Alderman (known in Second Life as “Stroker Serpentine”) alleges that Linden facilitates and profits from in-game pirates copying his IP-protected line of adult-themed virtual goods. Alderman claims his SexGen branded items and animations are among the most popular virtual products sold within Second Life, making his US trademark a valuable resource to distinguish himself amongst competitors selling alternative methods of bumping ugly online.”

3. ReadWriteWeb (USA) – Shouldn’t Schools Have Embraced Second Life By Now? “When it first launched, the tech and business worlds were transfixed on Linden Labs’ Second Life as a new marketplace. Science fiction fans flocked to the site for its Snow Crash and Matrix-like neo-apocalyptic feel. And finally, educators arrived to build inexpensive and immersive learning environments. While the hype has certainly dissipated with Second Life, the librarian and educator community remains. Today Linden announced the first statewide roll out of a virtual learning environment. Funded by a grant from the University of Texas State’s Transforming Undergraduate Education Program the company will provide a huge space for faculty, students and researchers to explore a virtual undergrad degree program.”

4. Tonic (USA) – Mombasa’s Cable Gives Africa Better Internet Access. “Prince Charles might describe the Seacom Landing Station in Mombasa as “a monstrous carbuncle, located right next to Mombasa’s most imposing sight, Fort Jesus, built by Vasco da Gama in the 16th century,” according to Rory Cellan-Jones, writing in his technology blog. This is where the Seacom cable comes ashore, bringing with it East Africa’s first “decent connection to the internet.” Mahmoud Noor, a telecommunications engineer, runs the station, which, Cellan-Jones said, “is just one link in a network stretching from Mumbai to Kenya, and along the cost of East Africa.” The new cable increases Kenya’s telecommunications capacity by 240 percent.”

5. Business Standard (India) – Spammers target online gamers. “With online games attracting gamers from across the globe, spammers have been trying to cash in on the popularity of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) videogames. Using phishing and Trojans, cyber criminals have been stealing players’ login names and passwords. Analysts explain that by creating characters that send unsolicited ads for items such as extra weapons and playable characters, spammers target gamers in MMO games. “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. Since cyber criminals need large audiences to perpetrate their crimes, they have begun preying on residents in virtual worlds and players in online games, particularly in Asia where these games have become extremely popular,” explains Abhinav Karnwal, product marketing manager APEC, Trend Micro.”

6. Medical News Today (USA) – Psychologists Set To Discuss The Psychosocial Impact Of The Internet. “The internet now plays a major role in many people’s lives. Over the last 20 years psychologists have built up a substantial body of knowledge about people’s social interactions in cyberspace. A symposium at the British Psychological Society’s Social Psychology Section annual conference today, 16th September 2009, led by members of Nottingham Trent University’s Cyberpsychology Research Group will examine some of the current psychological issues surrounding people’s use of the internet. ”

7. NT News (Australia) – Computer games good for doctors. “LEADING health professionals are encouraging health workers to play computer games on the job to improve their skills. Professor Terry Poulton and Dr Tenneth Dalipanda have endorsed Second Life and Virtual Patients at a health conference in Alice Springs. The virtual reality games allow graduate doctors and nurses to learn from their mistakes without killing or harming their patients. Simulated scenarios will be rehearsed with other allied health workers for professional development.”

8. PBS (USA) – Second Life. “When the sun comes up in Second Life, which it does every four hours, you are immediately overwhelmed by the vast, brightly colored mish-mash of stores, houses, and malls stretching across multiple continents—all of it, including the mountains and forests, designed and built from scratch by the tens of thousands of people who regularly visit here.
Move your mouse and you tour the Taj Mahal. A few clicks and you are launched on a NASA rocket into low orbit. Click again and you can join a service in an Anglican cathedral. This live, online world called Second Life was launched in 2003 by the San Francisco company Linden Lab and its founder Phillip Rosedale, who says he had no idea what would happen. PHILIP ROSEDALE (Chairman of the Board, Linden Lab): Well, I always figured in the beginning that if Second Life looked like anything we were able to predict that we would have failed, that if it was predictable we weren’t doing the right stuff.”

9. Nextgov (USA) – Generation V. “There’s an interesting conversation going on at IBM’s Smart Work Jam about the concept of age being just a number when it comes to social networking and virtual worlds. “I’ve led groups of zealous, older managers into Second Life sessions, where a number of younger managers were less interested, and managers of all ages have opted into the online community that I launched for them,” one commenter states. As a result, many have begun using “Generation V,” or “Generation Virtual,” which is not age-specific, to describe individuals who engage in Web 2.0 and virtual worlds. In fact, as one commenter stated, the debate over the generational divide in the workplace when it comes to technology is actually diverting attention from the real issue: “When workers of any age (including old) see business value, they are quick to adopt. So here’s the issue that’s masked: how do we demonstrate business value to people of all ages?”

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