Category: Uncategorized

Metaverse Summit 2007, Berlin – December

Despite the cancellation of at least 2 virtual worlds conferences in Germany this year, it seems there is still optimism among event organisers. I recently received a notification about Metaverse Summit 2007, to be held at the Estrel Convention Center in Berlin, on 6th and 7th, December. The notification, from Helmut Reul, the organiser, reads:

The Metaverse Summit is a two day conference focused on the emerging Metaverse and 3D-Web. One purposes of the summit is to bring together business leaders, venture capitalists, technologists, and industry participants to spend the two days discussing the present and future of the Internet. Estimated attendees, speakers, moderators are up to 500 from all over the world.

The recently published Metaverse Roadmap Overview looks at four key elements of the Metaverse future. According to this evaluation tracks of the summit are the four key elements:
+ Virtual Worlds
+ Mirror Worlds
+ Augmented Reality
+ Lifelogging

As with other events of this type, vendor space will be provided in which companies can promotes their various wares.

If you want to know more, or participate as speaker or sponsor, then head on over to their website.

[UPDATE: As Bridget points out in the comments below, the summit is not associated with the original Metaverse Roadmap Summit. The Berlin summit lists some findings from that meeting, and gives them proper credit, but the two are not associated.]

Oasis Rocks Into Second Life

Just got this press release:

UK rock band Oasis is opening its official online space in the virtual world Second Life (SL) this Monday, September 24, and is kicking off with a preview of its latest release, a feature-length-plus, limited edition double DVD entitled ‘Lord Don’t Slow Me Down’. The facility – built for Oasis in Second Life’s ‘New Horizon’ business park – is a joint venture between SL developer New Business Horizons and SL media producer Phoenix Film & Television.

From Monday, visitors can watch the DVD’s trailer as they browse around the space, pick up free goodies such as a virtual t-shirt and coffee table book, have a look at stills from the production and pre-order the double DVD itself for real world delivery by Amazon. The real world release of ‘Lord Don’t Slow Me Down’ is scheduled for October 29, 2007 by Big Brother Recordings in the UK and Big Brother Recordings/Universal internationally. Continue reading

A Virtual Vietnam War Memorial

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Recently I posted about one of several sites in the virtual world of Second Life commemorating those who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. It brought home to me how an immersive 3D environment can be used as a powerful visualisation tool, providing focus for contemplation.

Shortly after writing this piece I was contacted by Second Life resident, Evian Argus (in Real Life Robert Egan of Meme Science), to tell me about another memorial. Timed to open in November to coincide with the 25th anniversary of its original dedication, Meme Science are building a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial, commonly known as The Wall, in Second Life. The Wall lists all 58, 253 US service personnel killed or missing in the Vietnam war.

Continue reading

Cruxy’s Bitchin’ Music Map For Second Life

Cruxy music map for the virtual world of Second Life

This is one of the most bitchin’ add-ons for the virtual world of Second Life that I’ve seen in a while. Our fellow Brooklynites at Cruxy, who run a site that lets musicians, filmmakers and other artists promote (and earn from the sale of) their work, have released a music map for Second Life that lets you see which Cruxy artists are being played at which locations in the virtual world. Cruxy offer a Second Life player that lets you listen to Cruxy artists while you’re in-world. Their new music map of SL shows you what’s being played where, lets you filter by a particular artist, and just generally looks cool. Rock on. (And yes, that’s me interviewing Suxanne Vega if you scroll down the Cruxy home page. That was fun. And you can listen to the entire interview if you like. Well worth suffering through my questions to hear what such an interesting artist — and long-time New Yorker — has on her mind these days. Her new album is awesome.)

Anshe Chung Draws Venture Capital Investment

Anshe Chung Studios, which produces digital content and services for virtual worlds like Second Life, IMVU and others, has drawn a round of funding from New York venture capital firm Gladwyne Partners, who were early investors in the Electric Sheep Company. Sources at Gladwyne tell 3pointD the investment closed today, but wouldn’t reveal the amount. Gladwyne should be quite happy to have found another play in the virtual world sector; they’ve been looking very closely at the space since hopping into the Sheep pen. From the sound of things, they’re continuing the due diligence they’ve been doing throughout the space for the last year or two, so look for more, although it remains to be seen how soon. And congratulations to Anshe (or rather, to the husband-and-wife team behind the avatar), who has built an unparalleled “native” virtual-world brand over the last four years or so. Such companies should be under pressure from bigger, more established production houses, but none seem to have made significant in-roads. Anshe also has the advantage of having outsourced much of her studio’s work to employees in her native China, which may have made a difference to Gladwyne. In any case, it’s interesting to see just how far you can go with amateur content-creation, which is where Anshe started. Nice to see Gladwyne concentrating so heavily on the space, as well. We look forward to more.

Virtual Cities in Second Life: Copenhagen

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2007 has seen a trend (dare I say “meme”? No, perhaps not) for real world cities to be replicated in the virtual world of Second Life. This trend has been particularly prevalent in Northern/Central Europe – with Germany and The Netherlands vying for the most virtual cities. Today, while passing by the World Trade Center Memorial again, I espied an island called »CPH«, and finding it open, went to have a look. It seems that the trend has moved North a tad, as this is virtual Copenhagen. But is it “wunderbar, wunderbar?” Continue reading

NY Times on Second Life Economics and Utility

Terrific. I’m quoted in an article about Second Life in tomorrow’s New York Times. Which of the many topics covered in the interview am I quoted on? That’s right, cyber-genitalia and virtual McMansions. On the whole, though, the article is a pretty good deep dive on why people value such virtual goods, and what utility they derive from them. Check it out.

9/11 Gets a Fitting Memorial in Second Life

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There have been several examples of the twin towers being rebuilt in the virtual world of Second Life, but with the anniversary of that awful day with us once again, I would like to bring to your attention a site that I feel deserves a special mention: the World Trade Center sim. As I write this, it is still being finalised, ready for an official opening to coincide with the time the first plane hit. What singles this site out is that it does not attempt to undo what has happened. Rather, it commemorates those from many. many nations who died in that dreadful and tragic atrocity. Continue reading

A Conversation With Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata

Japanese writer, blogger and game designer Shigesato Itoi‘s site, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, is running a series of articles taken from a conversation with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. The first three (of eleven) are already up on the site, and there’s some good stuff there, not just for game designers, but for designers of software in general, especially at a moment when more and more people are coming to recognize the importance of game mechanics to user engagement. Parts four through eleven unfold over the next ten days. Whether you’re interested in Nintendo’s perspective on game and software design, or you just want to hear from “the world’s number one researcher of Miyamoto studies,” this is pretty much required reading.

$5,000 Reward For GoPets Avatar Bill of Rights

GoPets CEO Erik Bethke is set to break new ground in the area of virtual worlds by proposing to turn his service’s end-user licensing agreement and terms of service document into a plainly written bill of rights. [Via GamePolitics.com, pointed out by Nate Combs.] In a recent LiveJournal post, he offers $5,000 for help in drafting the document, but sets out 16 points for discussion, starting off, rather remarkably, with a right of due procedss and habeas corpus. If Bethke can get all this in place, it will represent a great step forward for virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games. In his post, he mentions Raph Koster’s Declaration of the Right of Avatars, which <pimp alert>Peter and I reference in our book.</pimp alert> There isn’t a terms of service doc out there that comes anywhere close to this. But if virtual spaces are to have a real, robust future, they’re going to need much better governance structures than they enjoy at present. Bethke’s new style of ToS, if it can be implemented, would be a big first step down that road.

Taking a Virtual Break at TUI

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While many residents of the virtual world of Second Life have taken themselves off on a short break to Chicago for Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) 2007, I have had to settle for a virtual holiday instead. Courtesy of German travel company, TUI, I have been rafting, scuba-diving, and exploring wrecked pirate ships at their virtual beach resort in Second Life.

The TUI AG group is perhaps the largest holidy tour operator in the world, and includes brands such as Thomson in the UK. This Second Life presence, spanning 4 islands, is intended to advertise their German tour operations. These are classed under 3 major “sub-brands” which are reflected in the names of their islands. TUI Schöne Ferien (classic seaside holidays), TUI Weltentdecker (city breaks and circular trips) and TUI Premium (high-end holidays). Continue reading

South by Southwest Season: Pimp That Panel

It’s South by Southwest season again, or at least the run-up to it. For the last two years I’ve headed to Austin for the excellent South by Southwest Interactive festival, a fun week of geeks and great conversations that takes place each spring in one of the greatest small cities in America. The process of choosing who gets to take the stage there, though, starts early. Hugh Forest, who runs the place, has just posted this year’s SXSW Panel-Picker, the mechanism by which a fair portion of the panels are chosen. I’ve proposed two, which I’m going to insist you all go vote on forthwith. Here are the titles, links and descriptions:

• Presence: Building the Social Web
“Despite social networking, the Web remains a lonely place: a billion people browse it, each one alone. This session examines efforts to make the Web a more social medium by bringing “presence” online. Help us imagine a Web that works less like a library and more like a multiplayer game.”

• Kicking Virtual Ass and Taking Avatar Names
“What is it like to run the virtual world’s most notorious tabloid? Where do you draw the line between good taste and bad, between information and sensation, between virtual and real — if such a line exists? Explore the role of a very free press in the evolution of online worlds. Dual presentation with [Second Life Herald founder] Peter Ludlow.” Continue reading

Best New Game Site: RockPaperShotgun.com

The crew at PC Gamer UK are without a doubt the best games writers in the business. (Put it this way: I pay over $100 a year for my subscription, and I no longer read any other games mags.) Every month, PCG(UK) provides the most sophisticated, most critical, most creative, and the funniest (without being too scatological — though they could still stand to dial back on the sexism) games writing out there. Now, a sub-crew of PCG writers — including Jim Rossignol and Kieron Gillen — as well as some friends, have launched a new site where they can range even more freely. Check out RockPaperShotgun, where there’s already some great stuff up (check out Gillen’s exclusive interview with Bioshock’s Ken Levine, for instance), and where I expect you’ll be able to find a higher level of games writing (at a lower cost) than is available from even the best games sites on the Web. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Escapist.)

Conduit Social Gaming World Gets $5.5m Round

Susan Wu, who was instrumental in arranging the Virtual Goods Summit I moderated a panel at in June, emailed me some embargoed news earlier today, and though I begged and pleaded, she asked me wait until midnight to post it. However, I see that the news is already out there, so I have to apologize to Susan and jump the gun, if only slightly: The news is that Charles River Ventures, where Susan is a partner, has just co-led a $5.5 million Series A financing of Conduit Labs, which is “building cool social entertainment destinations for you and your friends. We are bored of the same old social networks, virtual worlds, and MMOs,” according to its placeholder site. Over on Conduit’s blog, CEO Nabeel Hyatt is talking about the investment, and also tells the interesting story of how the comany got started. It’s hard to tell exactly what they’re building over at Conduit, but it sounds like a browser-based games network that’s somehow differentiated from what’s out there already. “We want to deliver a completely new kind of massively multiplayer experience — one that requires minutes, not hours, to access and learn, and one that is as rich and social as real-world activities like shooting hoops or jamming in a band. And we wanted it all in a browser, as accessible as your email,” Nabeel says. Later on, he puts Conduit “at the nexus of a lot of what’s happening on the social web, from Twitter to Areae” (which are both also CRV investments). I’ll be very interested to see what Conduit is cooking up, and whether there’s a form of “social gaming world” that could be that different from current offerings. Considering its backers, though, it’s definitely one to watch.

Metaverse Roadmap to Singapore

The fifth annual State of Play conference on legal and social issues in virtual worlds is under way this week in Singapore. I had to cancel my trip out there, which is a shame, since SoP is consistently one of the most interesting gatherings of VW thinkers. Jerry Paffendorf is there, though, and reports that the chin-wagging is already gathering steam. Other reports form Singapore have the local government excited over the metaverse roadmap that was recently release (an effort Jerry led and I was one of the contributors to). I’m not sure, but I think the Singaporese government helped fund the conference as well. That’s some pretty future-forward thinking. Wish I was there.

Face to Face With CyberExtruder

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Are you a Second Life resident who is fed up with your appearance? You’ve scoured the shops, looking for an avatar face that would be unique to you; something that captures the very essence of you — or at least, the persona you wish to project in Second Life. But you just can’t find it. Frustrating isn’t it?

You could opt to make your own, but most of us lack the skills to create something convincing, realistic and actually worth showing in public. Now, though, this need not be a bar to personalising your avatar — after a fashion. CyberExtruder provides a quick and relatively easy solution to your personalisation dilemma. Using a passport-style photograph, their automated conversion software will generate a realistic Second Life face in about a second. Whether you opt to use a self-portrait, or an image of someone else, is entirely up to you, though you might want to think carefully before pursuing the latter route.

The CyberExtruder service is a nice convenience for SL residents who want a more photorealistic face for their avatars, but the results can sometimes be a bit startling. Continue reading

SLCC Germany (21- 23 Sept.): Cancelled

The German Second Life Community Convention 2007, planned to be held in Düsseldorf from 21st to 23rd September, has been cancelled. This is the second cancellation of a German Second Life event, following the recent announcement about SL Conference 2007 in Berlin.

There is a small amount of good news for anyone who had registered for the Berlin event. Cocoate.com have worked out a deal with IQPC, organisers of Achieving Real Business Growth Through Second Life, being held in London on 25th and 26th Septemeber. The deal provides a substantial discount to registrants who want to switch over to the British event. Check the SL Conference website for more information.

I am waiting for an opportunity to talk with one of the organisers of the Düsseldorf event to find out what has happened since Thursday — when it was “all systems go” — to cause the cancellation.

CMP Launches Metaverse Services Division

CMP Technology has become “the first global media company to be certified by Linden Labs as a full-service content developer in Second Life,” according to a press release. (Though maybe Linden Lab should be careful that their certified devs at least spell the name of the company correctly.) CMP, of course, runs the annual Game Developers Conference and the Austin Game Developers Conference (which leans more toward MMOs and virtual worlds), as well as a number of Web 2.0 and other tech events, and publishes sites like Gamasutra and publications like Game Developer and Information Week. CMP is now bringing the virtual world into its media offerings: “CMP’s metaverse division will work with customers to create unique builds and events that promote deep engagement and nurture community. The division will integrate Second Life and the web to reach global markets while leveraging CMP’s trusted brands to acquire highly-qualified audiences and bring them inworld.”

Does this spell the beginning of stiffer competition for outfits like the Electric Sheep Company, Millions of Us, Rivers Run Red and others? It has seemed to be only a matter of time before big media companies got into the metaverse services space in a big way; CMP’s entry may be the early sign of a coming wave. Other firms with global reach (Edelman, for one) are already operating in Second Life (despite the “first” claim in CMP’s release), and it seems logical that such firms would expand their operations to produce campaigns for this new medium. It will be interesting to see how the “native” firms react to increased competition. I’m still waiting for a big media company to absorb one of the main metaverse services companies. If the market holds up (a big if, but not huge one), I imagine it’s only a matter of time before that happens. CMP’s entry into the space could well accelerate the process.

Congress Hears From Entropia on VW Taxation

It looks like MindArk, the company behind Entropia Universe (whose virtual currency is pegged and freely tradeable at 10 to the U.S. dollar), is getting in on the Washington lobbying act. Congress has been looking at issues of taxation related to virtual worlds since at least last October, and the Joint Economic Committee is long overdue with a promised report. (Or did I miss this?) This week, it seems, they’ll hear from Marco Behrmann, MindArk’s CIO, who is in Washington to speak to the IRS as well, according to this post on the RCE Universe forums. [Via RCEUniverse’s Nate Randall.] I’ll be interested to see where this all ends up, of course, but the most sensible take I’ve heard on this issue comes from Bryan Camp of Texas Tech University, who noted last year that, for the most part, the legal issues are settled, it’s just a matter of figuring out (or deciding) where virtual worlds fall within them. There’s probably slightly more to it than that, but not much. For my money, a more interesting issue is the related one of whether these environments can be ruled to be public places (like some shopping malls) and the implications of such a ruling for governing them. <shameless plug>You can read more about that kind of thing in our book when it’s published at the end of October.</shameless plug>

Virtual Goods Summit Videos Available

I’m wearing my Virtual Goods Summit t-shirt today, which isn’t really interesting except that it gives me an excuse to tell you that videos from the event have now been released. This was an excellent day of deep-diving into various business models and approaches to virtual goods — and probably features more information and more angles than you expect. The summit was arranged by Susan Wu of Charles River Ventures, and Charles Hudson, who, until recently, was in new business development at Google. What is Charles up to now? No idea. But he is super smart, very well connected, and friends with the super-smart and very well connected Susan, so whatever it is, it’s probably going to be interested. Stay tuned to his blog for updates.

10 Percent Off Virtual Worlds 07 Fall Conference

For those of you who are headed out to San Jose to join us at the Virtual Worlds Fall Conference and Expo, you can get 10 percent off your registration fees just because you’re reading 3pointD! That’s a savings of $60 to $100, depending on when you take advantage of this. Details after the jump. Continue reading

Cold Hard Cash: Second Life Coins Available

IBM employee mints Second Life coinsGod bless IBM. Of all the big bad corporations doing business in the virtual world of Second Life, these guys — and, on an individual basis, the company’s employees — are near the top of the “most creative and ambitious” league table (mostly, I suspect, because they can afford to be). The latest: an IBM employee with his own private island in Second Life has had some coins minted that are each worth one Linden dollar. That’s right, you can now hold the Linden dollar in your hand and actually spend it — if, that is, you’re on »Tender Island«, which has been owned by IBMer David van Gent since March.

The coins come complete with an “SL” mintmark, and are “accepted as legal currency on Tender Island.” Before you get your knickers in a twist over who’s allowed to mint coins denominated in a particular currency, keep in mind that in the U.S., at least, creating your own tender is perfectly acceptable — you can print all the money you want (as long as you’re not counterfeiting dollars), it’s just a matter of whether you can get anyone to accept it. Linden Lab, of course, is not a government. But their rhetoric (“I’m not building a game, I’m building a country“) indicates there shouldn’t be anything objectionable in Tender Island coins. Continue reading

Ambitious New Second Life Maps Mashup

Mappa Novus launches ambitious Second Life maps mashup

I hadn’t heard of Mappa Novus until someone dropped it in the comments here. The Mappa crew is doing interesting work creating maps of the virtual world of Second Life that seem to be mashed up with the Google Maps interface, and overlaid with data layers about population, land sales, etc. On top of that, they’ve layered some advanced edition maps that you can subscribe to for $7.95 a month or $19.95 for three months, which give extra data about land sales. The whole deal seems to be able the real estate business, as there’s also a land search tool available. They also have printed maps available for sale. Continue reading

Two New Virtual “Worlds” For Kids

WebbliWorld, a new virtual world for kidsWith the success of Nicktropolis and even more so WebKinz, Club Penguin, and things like GoPets and more (Animal Crossing, anyone?), virtual worlds for kids have become the hot ticket this summer. Two new ones are on their way: one an educational 3D theme park, the other a cool 2D “world” designed in part by Aardman Animations, the outfit behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit cartoons.

The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading

Sheep Launch New Second Life Shopping Site

Electric Sheep Company launches new shopping site for Second LifeThe Electric Sheep Company (which sponsors 3pointD) yesterday launched its new shopping site for the virtual world of Second Life. Known as OnRez, and launched with little fanfare, the site really constitutes the migration and overhaul of the old SLBoutique (which now redirects to OnRez), one of SL’s longest-standing shopping sites. The Sheep bought SLBoutique early on in the company’s history, and had been struggling with its codebase ever since. OnRez represents the chance to get new users interested in the Sheep’s Web-based services, and as such is an important step forward. Will it work? Continue reading

LFG: Social Limitations in Second Life Groups

Groups are a standard feature of the virtual world of Second Life. They provide communities for avatars with mutual interests, and can range across every interest or specialization known to avatar-kind. Within Second Life an avatar can be a member of up to 25 groups. Sometimes they are used to restrict access to specific areas, but more often they are used as a communication medium, as it is possible to send messages to all (online) members simultaneously.

A couple of months ago a new group was founded by Nick Wilson (aka 57 Miles in Second Life) of the popular Metaversed blog. It was called “Things To Do” and was based on the simple premise that Second Life is a social environment in which it is enjoyable to share activities with people, and make friends. Things To Do has since grown into both a popular group and an effective communications channel. But it also illustrates some of the limitations of social tools in Second Life, and raises some interesting questions about how to reach and manage large communities of people within the virtual world. Continue reading

Guardian Lays Out Potential of Virtual Worlds

The Guardian had not a bad story the other day about the potential for virtual worlds, focusing mostly on business uses. In contrast to some other recent takes on this in the press, the Guardian story seems more balanced to me, acknowledging that things are still at an early stage, and also tipping their hat to a wider universe of worlds than only Second Life. The article also calls out one of my favorite subjects: the convergence of virtual worlds and Web 2.0, which is still at a nascent stage. Judging from who’s quoted there, the article seems to have been inspired in part by the upcoming Virtual Worlds Forum Europe (more on that here), which takes place October 23-26 in London. I’ve been hoping to make that, but it’s looking less and less likely. There’s an excellent roster of speakers that are going to be on hand, though, so if you’re in the area, go for it.

Render 3D Objects in JavaScript

3D rendering engine hacked up in JavaScript

Check out this demo of a 3D rendering engine concept that the Useless Pickles blog hacked up in JavaScript. It works by manipulating the borders of page elements so that they appear as triangles — which means it could conceivably be used to render objects of some complexity, since most 3D objects are rendered out of meshes of triangles. Of course, JavaScript probably doesn’t scale to that point, but it’s a very interesting hack nonetheless. Nice stuff. [Via Hackzine, from whom I’ve stolen the image above.]

Second Life Running on Nokia n800

Second Life running on the Nokia n800

Check out the mobile wizardry of Second Life resident Wrestling Hulka, who has a limited version of the virtual world running on the Nokia n800. [Via Metaversed, from whom I’ve stolen the pic above.] Cool stuff. Recall there was another mobile client for Second Life that was developed earlier in the year. 3pointD hears that others may be working on similar apps — although I’m not sure I need an “immersive” experience on my mobile device. What I definitely would like, however, is the ability to interact with people who are in the virtual world via my phone and functions like instant messaging, my virtual currency account, etc. That’s far more useful, but is apparently less sexy and more difficult, since I don’t hear as much about people developing these kinds of functions. We can only hope.

Getting Social: Connecting in Virtual Worlds

I won’t be able to make this, unfortunately, but what sounds a really interesting panel will be held this Thursday, July 19, in the virtual world of Second Life. Kicking off at 6pm SL time (9pm Eastern), the panel will be a “Virtual Roundtable,” discussing “what drives the virtual human connection.” Moderated by Giff Constable of the Electric Sheep Company, it features some great speakers: Susan Wu of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Charles River Ventures, Beth Coleman of MIT, Robin Harper of Linden Lab, and Chris Carella, creative director of the Electric Sheep Company. Continue reading

Give Trees a Second Chance in Second Life

The YouTube video above is a very cool way to leverage the expressive capabilities of the virtual world of Second Life, if you ask me. It describes the Second Chance Trees reforestation project, which was designed and built out by social media communications company Converseon, in partnership with Plant-It 2020, a non-profit whose business it is to plant and maintain indigenous trees around the world. For each virtual tree planted »on Second Chance Trees island« in Second Life (at a cost of L$300, or about US$1), Plant-It will plant one tree in the real world. Now, the Second Chance Trees project has a chance to be funded to the tune of one to five million dollars (and plant a corresponding number of real-world trees) through the American Express Members Project, where Second Chance Trees has made it into the round of 50 finalists. Vote for the project if you dig what you see.