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Archive for March, 2007

Interview With Stroker Serpentine

Posted by SIM on March 30, 2007

Stroker Serpentine, Second Life’s Porn Mogul, Speaks
by Regina Lynn
03.30.07

Kevin Alderman might not be a household name (yet). Most people are more familiar with his alter ego, Stroker Serpentine, the Second Life business mogul who built the first in-world sex bed — a digital bed with built-in sex position animations — and whose Amsterdam sim — a digital city — just sold on eBay for $50,000.

I caught up with him by phone the day Amsterdam sold. He was on a “Sopranos Tour” in New Jersey, but ducked into an alley near an ice cream shop to talk to me about why virtual property has real value and how sexuality and 3-D go together like ice cream and Oreo cookies.

Wired News: Let’s start with the basics. Who is Stroker Serpentine?

Kevin Alderman: I get so involved in the character that Stroker really is more me than he is a character. But let’s see. Stroker is a pervert at large. Erotic facilitator. Pornographic mogul.

I like to think of myself in terms of being an adult friend finder, operating in an immersive environment where I can use my creative talents to bring people together. Stroker is a character I developed three years ago within Second Life, and I started out with small events with like-minded individuals who also enjoyed the aspects of avie (avatar) erotica.

WN: Why would anyone pay $50,000 for a virtual property?

Alderman: Why would someone pay real money for something that doesn’t exist except on a server and a rack in San Francisco? I think because of the immersive nature of a virtual platform, and the ability to interact in real time with people from all walks of life and different environments and different cities across the globe. It’s much better than a telephone because you have a visual representation, and we are tactile-visual creatures. It’s the next best thing to real life, barring some type of cortical interface a la The Matrix.

Amsterdam is unique inasmuch (as) it was our first adult-oriented property within Second Life. It was a favored hangout of the majority of Second Life escorts and developed a reputation as being salacious and erotic — and we developed it with that purpose in mind.

When you think about sexy cities, Amsterdam obviously comes to mind. I used actual photographs of the city to lay out the sim and created textures based upon real landmarks. The reason it sold for 50K is because there will be no other Amsterdam within Second Life. It’s like a unique URL — like Sex.com, which (is worth) millions of dollars.

The sim was bought by an investment group, which is in the Netherlands, and they see the potential for commercialization and marketing. And people from the Netherlands are automatically going to be drawn to a sim named Amsterdam.

WN: What do you think about sexuality in virtual spaces?

Alderman: I think it’s an inevitable progression. Static web pages were great for information connectivity. But (in virtual worlds) you make the paradigm leap away from something that is projected to you and toward something you create that represents yourself. You impress your own psyche, motivations, creativity, sensuality onto a group of pixels and become quite attached to it.

It’s interesting how much freedom you get in that you don’t have any inhibitions to restrain you. If you want to be a Gorean and prostitute yourself to a master or become their personal sex slave, then go for it. If you want to be an escort in Amsterdam, or a domme, go for it. So many freedoms — things you couldn’t normally do in real life or that you would love to do — the fantasy aspect is limitless.

Probably 60 percent of the women and men that come in-world at least try escorting or use the service because it’s the jumping off point, where you can explore your sexuality anonymously. You can see what it is that Second Life has to offer in terms of avie erotica. Until we get the cortical interface, this is the next best thing — and I’m holding out for qDot (to make the breakthrough).

WN: You sold Amsterdam in part because your focus has shifted to Eros. What is Eros?

Alderman: We’re a grass-roots community of residents who like to push the envelope as to what is available to us within this 3-D platform of Second Life. We have regular group events where we get together and collaborate. We dance — we do it naked, typically — and we brainstorm and try to develop avenues of expansion. We talk about products we’d like to see developed, and specific animations that a group of people would like to see.

Every element — the Goreans, the Amazons, the furries — all have unique needs and requests. We listen to them and then gather the animators, texture artists and builders, and ask: “How can we make this happen?”

Eros is a complete experience. It’s a community, it’s not just a place. We’re all over the place, and we have events and sims and attitude. And it’s a safe place to express yourself in a virtual environment — with no excuses and no explanations.

WN: How do you see Strokerz Toyz and your other adult developments in Second Life affecting the future of sexuality in-world?

Alderman: Somebody’s gotta be the bad boy. And it might as well be me.

This has been a progression for me over the years, from platform to platform and game to game. I saw a need and I’m filling that need. The actual expansion of the “Serpentine Empire” is being motivated and instituted by customers and requests. When people come to me and say, “You know what would really be cool…,” we use that and expand on it.

And SexGen, which is our best-selling animation system — it’s what we built our business on — was a combination of ideas and collaboration between a programmer, an animator and a pervert.

Stroker is just the icon. The staff and the group members and the supporters are really the driving force. They tell us what they would like to see and we do our damnedest to make it happen.

Source

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Virtual Obama To Be Simulcast In SecondLife

Posted by SIM on March 30, 2007

Obama Event To Be Simulcast in SL
by Redaktisto Noble
March 24, 2007

The theme of the event is “Hope. Action. Change.”

SoHo – The official campaign of U.S. Senator Barack Obama has authorized a simulcast of a nationwide event in Second Life next week. Forefront Media, a “virtual event and promotions” company which operates in SL, will host the event next Saturday, March 31 at 1:00 PM on their island SoHo.

In the real world, presidential candidate Obama will interact with a small group in an Iowa living room. The event will be webcast for “community gatherings” of Obama supporters around the country. The SL version of the event will not feature a video feed. Instead, the environment will simulate the living room in which Obama will speak, and an authorized Obama avatar will follow the movements of the real-world Obama as an audio stream is piped into the sim.

Of course, Sen. Obama himself will not be controlling the avatar, and will not be available to answer questions from the SL audience.

Surprisingly, the inworld group of Obama supporters is not involved in planning the event. One of Forefront Media’s employees had real-world contacts with the Obama campaign and the company approached the campaign with the idea.

Forefront owner MB Darrow says he hopes the event will demonstrate the potential of Second Life as a campaign medium and spur other campaigns to get invovled.

Source

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Gold Rush Is On For Virtual Worlds

Posted by SIM on March 28, 2007

Corporate Gold Rush Is On For Virtual Worlds, But Approaches Vary Widely
By Peter Svensson
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) – Companies are flocking to market themselves in virtual worlds, game-like and usually three-dimensional online universes, but the long-term shape of this fledgling industry is far from clear.

“We’re pretty much where the Internet was in the mid-’90s,” said Steve Prentice, a vice president at technology research group Gartner Inc., echoing a view held by other participants Wednesday at the Virtual Worlds conference in Manhattan.

Joe Laszlo, analyst at JupiterKagan Inc., said the virtual worlds are “like the early days of the Victoria’s Secret webcast, where it was crappy, but hot, so everybody went.”

MTV executives touted their TV-show spinoffs “Virtual Laguna Beach” and “Virtual Hills,” which have attracted 600,000 registered users since they were launched six months ago. Almost like the real Southern California, these 3-D online spaces have perfect weather, but in an improvement on real life, its users are all represented by attractive, slim and young online embodiments known as avatars.

These avatars can interact with each other via text chats and commerce, providing a social element that virtual-world pioneers see as more realistic and engaging than chat rooms and MySpace pages.

“When you get people deep and passionate in a community, money just comes out of it in so many ways,” said Matt Bostwick, senior vice-president of franchise development at MTV Music Group, which is part of New York-based Viacom Inc.

As an example of the branding opportunities, Bostwick said MTV has sold more than 11,402 virtual cans of Pepsi. The buyers can’t drink them, since they exist only on the screen, but they act as a form of decoration for their avatars.

MTV’s “Nicktropolis” is growing even faster, with 2.4 million registered users who have logged 7.5 million visits since its launch two months ago, according to Nickelodeon’s executive vice president of digital media, Steve Youngwood.

MTV’s endeavours are “closed” virtual worlds, entirely controlled by the company. Every tree, building and piece of clothing is approved by MTV, though the underlying technology for “Virtual Hills/Laguna Beach” comes from another virtual world, “There,” which was created by San Mateo, Calif.-based Makena Technologies Inc.

The virtual world “Second Life” represents a dramatically different approach. There, users can create, out of thin virtual air, almost any object they can imagine, if they’re skilled enough with 3-D modelling and programming tools.

The freewheeling and in many places sex-oriented spirit of “Second Life” is reminiscent of the early days of the web. The company behind it, San Francisco-based Linden Research Inc., says its goal is nothing less than a 3-D Internet.

But given the wide range of uses for online worlds – games, communication within companies, flirting, self-expression – it’s not clear that a single world is going to dominate.

“There is not going to be one metaverse, there’s going to be a multitude of them out there,” said Corey Bridges, a Netscape veteran and co-founder of the Multiverse Network Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif.

His company is creating a program that will give access to multiple online worlds built using its technology, much like Netscape’s browser gave access to multiple websites, kickstarting the Internet boom of the 1990s.

The technology will include the option to make avatars portable between different worlds, providing a middle road between MTV-style walled gardens and a wide-ranging “metaverse” like “Second Life.”

“Once you can move from one virtual world to another, the growth we have today is going to look pretty stagnant,” said Gartner’s Prentice.

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Virtual Marketing

Posted by SIM on March 27, 2007

Learning To Market In Virtual Worlds
By Daniel Terdiman
Tuesday, March 27 2007

NEW YORK–Think the recent flurry of big media and technology operations setting up shop in virtual worlds like Second Life is a passing fad? Think again.

Starting on Wednesday, representatives of companies including MTV Networks and its Nickelodeon, IBM, AOL and Disney, as well as institutions like Harvard University, the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control, will gather here for Virtual Worlds 2007, the first major conference designed specifically to promote marketing in virtual worlds to Fortune 500 companies.

“It’s all about the future of marketing and media,” conference organizer Chris Sherman said. “It’s about finding the right partner for whatever partnership you might be looking for.”

The two-day conference comes at a heady time for virtual worlds and 3D social environments. Even as the Virtual Worlds event kicks off, the Accelerating Studies Foundation is readying its formal written report from last year’s Metaverse Roadmap Summit–in which participants were tasked with prognosticating the look and feel of the 3D Web in 2016–and a Congressional committee is nearing completion of recommendations on whether the economies of virtual worlds should be regulated.

Such developments might seem absurd to those people who see virtual worlds like Second Life, There, Entropia Universe and others as little more than games. Yet the list of companies that have staked out space in these virtual frontiers is impressive: Microsoft, Warner Music, Toyota, Major League Baseball, Starwood Hotels, Bain and many others.

That’s why Sherman and his colleagues at Show Initiative, which formerly ran the Austin Game Conference, have decided now is a good time for a conference where media and technology professionals can converge with developers of virtual-world platforms. More than 600 are expected to attend.

“There’s critical mass now,” Sherman said. “There’s a number of people looking at the space; it’s permeated the consciousness of Madison Avenue, as well as Silicon Valley.”

Certainly, one of the main topics–how to profit from marketing in virtual worlds–has drawn its share of skeptics. Their hesitancy centers around the notion that there’s no proven business model for big companies marketing in virtual worlds, and there is little, if any, demonstrated return on investment.

There’s no doubt that those concerns will get a healthy hearing at the Virtual Worlds show. Yet there’s also a level of enthusiasm among participants that comes from the perception that they’re on the cutting edge of what could be the next great marketing canvas.

“It’s not going to be the case that any one company is going to solve a bunch of these issues, and it’s going to take a bunch of companies talking about it,” said Corey Bridges, co-founder of The Multiverse Network, a company that has developed a platform allowing anyone to create their own online game or virtual world. “So even though it’s early in the applicability of this new medium, this show, in particular, has got just a dynamite roster…It’s the best of the best of this market.”

Of course, Virtual Worlds is hardly the first conference devoted to immersive digital environments. Others have included State of Play, an annual event focused on the legal, social and academic aspects of virtual worlds and online games; and the Austin Game Conference, which looks at the latest design and development innovations of such environments.

But this week’s event is the first real business conference devoted entirely to virtual worlds.

Keynote speakers include Jeffrey Yapp, executive vice president of MTV Networks; Colin Parris, vice president of digital convergence at IBM Research; and Matt Bostwick, senior vice president of franchise development at the MTV Networks Music Group.

Panelists, meanwhile, plan to explore such subjects as “Defining your strategy: What does ROI mean to you”; “Integrated marketing: Merging virtual activities with real-world activities; and “Virtual world applications that work.”

Some regular attendees of the other gatherings say they’re excited to go to a place where there’s potential for witnessing change in action.

“For once, I’m actually interested in the subject matter that’s going to be examined,” said Mark Wallace, editor of 3pointD.com, a leading blog about virtual worlds and 3D digital environments. “The panel topics that have been chosen are a lot closer to the kinds of things that the edge thinkers in the space are looking at than they are the kind of mass-market panels you often get at broader conferences, where a lot of what’s going on is audience education, and the real conference goes on in the hallways.”

Wallace, whose blog is a “media partner” of the conference, said he expects to see a high level of expertise on the part of the participants. “It’s almost like this has been set up to be the Davos of virtual worlds,” he said.

At the actual World Economic Forum in Davos this year, Second Life was on many people’s lips–and it is similarly expected to be a major topic of discussion at Virtual Worlds. But there is now a growing list of potential competitors for marketers’ dollars, including Bridges’ Multiverse Network, which is building a virtual-world platform, as well as Areae, a start-up of former Sony Online Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Raph Koster, and There.

The conference will also be a place to see what the third-party companies developing projects in Second Life and other virtual worlds for big clients are up to. And that’s what some attendees are most looking forward to.

“I’m looking to meet with the people who are in charge of levering their existing properties and taking them online,” said John Donham, vice president of production at Areae. “I’m (also) interested in meeting the other developers and seeing what they’re making. It’s a good opportunity to spy.”

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TheBar.com Raises A Glass To Second Life

Posted by SIM on March 26, 2007

Virtual ‘cheers’, provided you drink responsibly
By Clement James
26 March 2007

Real world drinks promoter Thebar.com has introduced a virtual Bar Kit to be syndicated and deployed in bars and nightclubs in Second Life.

Virtual bars and nightclubs are already popular meeting spots for Second Life citizens, or avatars, but such venues offer little built-in interactivity, according to Thebar.com.

The Bar Kit allows patrons to be linked through their drink choices, each of which is associated with a catch phrase and animation.

The catch phrase and animation are triggered when avatars propose ‘toasts’ with their drinks. When one avatar proposes a toast to the room, all avatars drinking the same beverage automatically join in the animation.

Additionally, when one avatar proposes a ‘cheers’ to other patrons, all other avatars with the same drink will raise their glasses and have the option to repeat the ‘cheers’ or join in with an ‘I’ll drink to that’.

Thebar.com has also taken measures to ensure that the Bar Kit will be used responsibly by patrons and owners by building in features that promote responsible virtual drinking.

All bar patrons are asked to submit their age when they order their first drink at any bar.

An avatar who tries to overuse the toast function, thereby causing a ruckus for other bar patrons, receives a friendly reminder animation to ‘drink responsibly’ instead of the usual animation.

Source

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Virtual Kids

Posted by SIM on March 23, 2007

Time to play, money to spend
Webkinz and Club Penguin struck gold by attracting millions of kids to their online worlds and keeping them there. What makes their sites so sticky?
By Carleen Hawn, Business 2.0 Magazine
March 23, 2007

(Business 2.0 Magazine) — Eleven-year-old Liana Crandall, a fifth-grader in St. Louis, is a typical overscheduled kid. When she isn’t playing soccer or basketball after school, she’s swimming or singing in the choir. But she always makes time for one special thing.

“I get all my homework done during recess because then I can go home and play Webkinz,” she says. “I play at least an hour a day, two hours tops.”

Never heard of Webkinz? You will.

The site is the brainchild of Ganz, a Canadian toymaker with a popular line of plush pets. Two years ago Ganz created an online environment to entertain the owners of its stuffed animals and was quickly swept into the exploding world of virtual-reality gaming aimed at tweens, children between the ages of 8 and 12.

The value of this exact market hasn’t yet been tallied, but a 2005 report by Packaged Facts counted 29 million U.S. kids ages 8 to 14, with a combined annual purchasing power of $40 billion. Nearly 90 percent of these children are now online, which means there’s a lot of money to be made by websites that can capture the kids’ attention and their impressionable eyeballs.

Ganz’s Webkinz.com and a site called Club Penguin were early entries into this market, but they’ve been joined this year by the giants of tween marketing: Disney (Charts) and Nickelodeon (Charts). What started as an Internet sideline for a plush-toy company is shaping up as a battle for the hearts and minds of a generation.

It’s a battle that bears watching by anybody interested in making money on the Web, because once children aim their browsers at one of these virtual worlds, they tend to stay there, not just for a few minutes but for hours at a time. The sites are, in the jargon of the webmaster, extraordinarily sticky.

This is how they do it.

Imagine Beanie Babies in cyberspace and you have a pretty good picture of what Ganz is up to. The company sells its Webkinz–special-edition plush toys with names like Googles, Cheeky Monkey, and Love Puppy–for $10 to $12.50 apiece.

Each comes with a tag featuring a “secret code” that gets its owner into the Webkinz World website. There the toys come to life on the screen, ready to be adopted. The kids give each toy a gender and a name and can spend “kinz cash” to buy food, clothes, and furniture. They’re also invited to play games, enter trivia contests, chat with other pet owners, and even take jobs–such as flipping virtual burgers–to earn more spending money.

It’s a model that can be enormously seductive. Ganz reports that toy buyers have snapped up more than 2 million Webkinz pets since April 2005 and better than 1 million users have registered online. More than $20 million in retail sales in less than 24 months is considered pretty good money in the plush-toy business. Ganz is privately held and won’t disclose its profit, but to put that growth rate in perspective, it took Second Life three years to attract the first 1 million “residents” to its virtual universe.

Club Penguin uses a different approach but gets similar results. There are no plush toys to buy or entrance fees to pay. New members are offered small virtual penguins that they can adopt, name, feed, and clothe. They can also chat, play games, and even help publish the Club Penguin newspaper.

Where creator New Horizon Interactive makes its money is in what it calls premium play. Any kid can have a penguin for free, but if he or she wants to decorate the penguin’s igloo, Mom or Dad will have to subscribe–for $6 a month, or $58 a year. Traffic has mushroomed. Club Penguin saw 2.9 million unique visitors in January, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, up from just 705,000 in March 2006.

So what keeps Crandall and millions of other kids playing for more than an hour each day?

One thing that attracts them, experts say, is the sense of power that children get in a virtual world but rarely experience in real life. “This isn’t rocket science,” says Club Penguin founder and CEO Lane Merrifield. “A lot of virtual-reality companies look at these games like television–‘We are going to entertain you, and you are going to enjoy it.’ Ours is a two-way stream.”

One way Club Penguin gives kids control over their environment is by letting them “bank” points they win in games and convert those points to “money” that can be used to customize their igloos. “Club Penguin Time,” a standardized clock (actually based on Pacific time), lets kids from all over the world meet up online without having to worry about coordinating time zones.

Another trick used by Club Penguin to keep kids hanging around is throwing themed “parties.” During the holidays, for example, Club Penguin’s writers built a plot around a huge winter storm. News of the storm began leaking onto the site’s weather reports in November to create a buzz of anticipation. When the storm finally hit in December, it dumped snow in every room on the site.

The penguins had to dig tunnels to get around. Captain Rock Hopper, the site’s pirate, was delayed by the gale. When his ship finally landed, it was in shambles and the penguins had to repair it. The winter party was a big success: In December the number of unique visitors to Club Penguin jumped by more than 20 percent.

But kids are fickle. Bennett Morris, 7, and his brother Lawson, 5, used to live for Club Penguin but are now enthusiastic Webkinz players. The boys, who live outside Boston, like the variety of the Webkinz animals and the “houses” they live in. “I like the private rooms. I like to get furniture and decorate King Kong’s house,” Bennett says. King Kong is his Webkinz gorilla. He also has Coco (a monkey) and Gumdrop (a chihuahua). “I like Webkinz better because there are more games,” Lawson pipes in. “My favorite is Wheel of Wow, but you can only play it one time a day.”

This is an important feature: Webkinz puts strict limits on how much time kids can spend on any activity–a “leave ’em wanting more” strategy that is one of the secrets of the site’s success. Webkinz’s traffic ballooned from 1.1 million unique visitors in November to 1.9 million in December. Moreover, kids spent an average of two hours and eight minutes per visit on Webkinz between April 2006 and January 2007. (YouTube, by contrast, averaged 32 minutes per visit during the same period, while Club Penguin averaged 54.)

What will happen once Disney and Nickelodeon get their sites rolling is anyone’s guess. Disney just relaunched an existing virtual-reality site under a new name: Disney Xtreme Digital (DXD). Users get to choose from among more than 500 Disney-branded character-and film-themed sites (Hannah Montana or Buzz Lightyear for tweens, Pirates of the Caribbean for teens, etc.).

Nickelodeon launched its entry, Nicktropolis.com, at the end of January. Kids are invited to create virtual identities and spend virtual currency in Nickelodeon stores or visit online versions of top-rated Nickelodeon shows like SpongeBob SquarePants.

Club Penguin and Webkinz trumpet their sites as safe, ad-free environments. Disney and Nickelodeon are more frankly commercial and–in a big shift–ad-supported. Marketing to kids is always tricky; no one wants to be seen shilling to children. And whether the kids will buy the branded content, or the products advertised, remains to be seen.

But the biggest question hovering over this whole market is what the kids will want in the future–like next week. The most carefully crafted strategies can be blown up by an overnight shift in whatever adolescents deem cool.

Just ask Crandall. She can reel off a dozen reasons she now prefers Webkinz to Club Penguin but doesn’t hesitate when asked how she finds the hottest new games. It’s easy, she says. She asks her friend Danielle.

Source

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For Sale In Second Life: Amsterdam

Posted by SIM on March 22, 2007

By Mitch Wagner,
March 22, 2007

Amsterdam is for sale on eBay.. It’s one of the most popular areas in Second Life. More than that: It is, to Second Life, what Times Square is to New York, or Fisherman’s Wharf is to San Francisco. It’s one of the first places where newbies go, to look around and check out the scene.

I’ve visited a couple of times myself, in my first couple of weeks in Second Life, but not since. I know only a couple of things about it: It’s really lovely, with lots of attention to detail. It looks a lot like the real Amsterdam (which, alas, I’ve only seen on TV travel shows). Check out the slide show on the auction page, above.

And it’s supposed to be one of the most prominent locations for the sex business in Second Life.

Bidding starts at US$20,000, or you can buy it outright for $50,000.

The owner and developer, who goes by the Second Life name “Stroker Serpentine,” says he’s selling because it’s time to move on.

Tateru Nino wrote a brief, six-paragraph profile of Amsterdam, with photos:

One of the first things that really stands out about Amsterdam is the attention-to-detail. It feels very much like a real place, with signage, advertising, imperfections and litter.

Benja Soon said it made him miss the real Amsterdam, and lauded the accuracy of the design, “If the map went two more blocks to my right, I could visit my old apartment.”

Source

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Calvin Klein Launches Second Life Virtual Perfume

Posted by SIM on March 21, 2007

Virtual Scent for a Virtual World
by Clement James
21 Mar 2007

The Second Life virtual community continues to attract more big names from the real world.

Calvin Klein this week became the first global fragrance brand to launch in the virtual world.

Second Life residents and visitors will be able to visit the CK IN2U site to pick up virtual bottles of the new IN2U fragrances for him and her. They will be able to spray virtual partners with virtual “fizzing fragrance bubbles” to initiate dialogue.

Customers can also use specially modified Calvin Klein graffiti bottles to express themselves and whatever they or their friends are ‘in 2’.

UK consumers who want a sniff of the real thing will be able to click through to the CK IN2U website to request a free ‘real world’ sample.

Calvin Klein is also launching a photography competition and gallery, offering avatars the chance to post a snapshot of any image that inspires them in the virtual world.

The winner will become a ‘millionaire’, taking the 1,000,000 Linden dollar prize money.

Lori Singer, vice president of global marketing at Calvin Klein Fragrances, claimed that the perfume will appeal “technosexuals”.

Source

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IBM Launches Developers’ Resources In Second Life

Posted by SIM on March 21, 2007

Codestation includes a giant labyrinth where software developers can build robots and race them against each other.
By Mitch Wagner, InformationWeek
March 21, 2007

IBM on Wednesday launched Codestation, an area in Second Life where it can provide developers with training and information, as well as teach developers about the benefits of collaborating in Second Life. Read on for more information and images.

The centerpiece of the island is a labyrinth where developers can program robots to solve the maze, and run races with each other, as a means of learning to code within Second Life.

The island also features a code library, with objects associated with the code on display. Developers can download the code and interact with it, and IBM will be inviting developers to contribute code to the objects as well.

The island features a pavilion where IBM will host technical presentations and training.

“We see this as a new platform. Three-D environments are like interacting with people in reality. They provide a way to bring developers in who may not be in the same location. We can do training and let them interact with each other in ways they haven’t been able to do until recently,” said Kathy Mandelstein, director of worldwide development and Rational programs for IBM, in an interview.

Second Life is a three-D virtual world with about 200,000 regular users. Almost all the content is created by users, with 3-D design tools and a scripting language called LSL.

InformationWeek sister publication Dr. Dobb’s Journal is working on its own plan to offer developer resources in Second Life.

Major companies, including Adidas, Circuit City, Dell, IBM, Sears, and Toyota, have all set up beachheads for business in Second Life.

Second Life recently has been struggling with growing pains.

Source

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Federal Govt Soon To Inhabit Second Life

Posted by SIM on March 19, 2007

DHS Ponders Foray Into Second Life
By Trudy Walsh
03/19/07

The Homeland Security Department is considering setting up an outpost in Second Life, the virtual Sims-like world that has attracted 3 million registered users since 2003.

The landscape of this digital universe, founded by Linden Research Inc. of San Francisco, is rapidly changing. When it was first launched, Second Life was a motley shire where trolls, hobbits and elves—and other less savory grid dwellers—frolicked. Now it is becoming a legitimate corporate meeting place for corporations, universities and, increasingly, government agencies. Federal agencies that have set up islands on Second Life include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Congress [GCN.com, Quickfind 745].

DHS is just at the point of having informal discussions with one company about setting up a virtual island for its Safecom program, said Tony Frater, DHS’ deputy director of the Office for Interoperability and Compatibility. “But we haven’t taken the plunge,” he said.

Safecom is an integration and engineering project whose goal is to connect wireless first-response systems across federal, state and local agencies. “At Safecom, we’re focused on research, testing and evaluation, and standards to support communications equipment for the first-responder and the public safety community,” Frater said.

As such, Safecom involves a lot of collaboration with commercial engineers, experts in academia and others, he said. Some of these experts live and work in places such as Prague and Singapore. To bring all these people together in one place for conferences would be a logistical nightmare and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Frater said.

But if DHS were to enable these far-flung researchers and experts to log on to Second Life at http://www.lindenlab.com and convene by means of avatars and instant messaging, it would be almost like holding a real-world conference. Best of all, Second Life is free except for some nominal, optional fees.

Not only does Second Life cost practically zilch, but nobody gets hurt. Avatar firemen drive virtual trucks that sound virtual sirens. Virtual chemical spills are hoovered up quickly with a virtual hose. Virtual tornadoes devastate virtual counties that can be restored in seconds with a quick “undo.”

Most public-safety agencies don’t have the resources to conduct “tabletop exercises,” which typically are simulations of first-responder events such as a pandemic or a biochemical attack, Frater said. One of these exercises usually requires public-safety workers to spend an entire weekend working at the event. And a tabletop exercise can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In Second Life, however, “we could build training exercises around chemical spills, hurricanes or tornadoes,” Frater said. “It’s fairly realistic. We could mock up things that happen in real life.” Public safety agencies could upload their standard operating procedures and get 30 or so avatars to conduct a simulation exercise.

One of the most attractive features of Second Life is its social networking environment, which lets people share information with great immediacy, Frater said. “First responders—more than a lot of other professions—look to their colleagues for experiences and successes.”

Frater described the Safecom program as “practitioner-driven. We get ideas from the first-responder community to find out what’s working well and what’s not working well.”

But some have raised eyebrows at Second Life’s seedy side, teeming with casinos and unclothed beaches. The site also has its share of vandals, such as the “griefers” who recently defaced the Second Life site of presidential candidate John Edwards.

Is DHS comfortable being a part of this world?

“Just like the Internet, Second Life has both appropriate and inappropriate sections,” Frater said. “DHS will take appropriate steps to protect its information. We also talked about setting up meeting spaces that can be conducted in private,” which require invitations. “I think a lot of seminars would be in a closed setting,” he said.

Although only a handful of government agencies have staked out claims in Second Life, Frater thinks a government users group for the virtual world would be a big help in sharing best practices.

“So many of the investments in Second Life are reusable,” he said. “I think that’s an e-gov principle we should all be putting to use.”

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