Media Hype Could Permanently Damage Augmented Reality

6a00d8341bf7f753ef01157203c76e970b-800wi The media appears quite smitten with augmented reality technology, the webcam-based tool that allows graphical, interactive overlays to be placed over most objects sporting a special bar code.

The problem is, excessive media hype could end up damaging augmented reality's much-needed development, turning a possibly great future product into a barely useful current one.

Let's look at why augmented reality is a promising technology almost certain to underwhelm, especially after the hype treatment heaped on its promise by the mainstream medi

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The Growth of Cybercrime and Cybercrime Prevention in Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds are no longer the backwater playgrounds of a few computer-adept programmers. They are multi-billion dollar worldwide industries spanning the fields of entertainment, communications, information technology, and increasingly law enforcement. In short, there's money to be made, and with an expansive, loosely-regulated product like virtual worlds comes the potential for cybercrime.

I wrote several months ago about how law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to virtual world account information to provide breaks in real-world legal cases, but what about crimes committed entirely within a virtual sphere?

Several news outlets from around the world are increasingly looking at what is required to secure a profitable industry from brazen exploitation by scammers, money launderers, and cyberpirates. Regulators are calling for cybercrime task forces within physical police departments. The frontier of virtual worlds seems poised to get some new lawmen.

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Does Augmented Reality Have Broad Market Potential?

Every once in a while I get a
really interesting letter about the potential "game changing" business
applications of the super-hyped augmented reality "industry." I'm deeply
skeptical about AR's ability to change anything until comprehensive
standards are developed to define exactly what constitutes an "AR
product," but the article I received deserves closer review.

interesting article
comes straight from the tech blog Vision
Mobile. In the article, Andreas Constantinou, one of a new crop of
reporters looking at augmented reality, discusses the unique economies
created by augmented reality and virtual worlds with an eye towards the

But is Constantinou overly
optimistic about the transformative power of augmented reality?

From the Vision Mobile article:

What's interesting is when entire new economies emerge,
new systems for creating value and monetising from that value. I
would argue that in the last few years we have been witnessing the
creation of Augmented Economics, the economy formed by superimposing
value on top of our physical world. But let me take a step back to

Let's take a look at
the market potential of augmented reality services, both tethered to the
webcam and desktop computer model of today as well as some new
innovators hoping to bring augmented technology to new and interesting
areas of traditionally old-technology business.

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How Evolving Laws and Workplace Needs are Bringing Companies into Harmony with the Virtual World

The sputtering global economy
could have a silver lining – companies looking to cut travel costs are
turning to the virtual world for more business services than ever. As a reader recently pointed out, this means more than traveling to a meeting in the virtual world instead of trekking across the country. It also means that important training and workforce development projects are finding happy homes in the Metaverse.

CNN reports
, companies are increasingly turning to telecommuting
and virtual conferencing in graphical virtual worlds as a means of
shaving costs and remaining competitive in an economy where credit is
still tight and government life preservers are harder to come by. Let's take a look at just how serious this trend is.

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A Closer Look at Public Schools and the Rise of Virtual Learning Technology

In light of the great job done by public university entrants in the Army Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge, it's time to take a fresh look at just how universities around the world are adding virtual world literacy to their core curriculum. I've made it a point to report on individual schools and organizations with innovative new approaches to digital education and virtual world understanding, but there is relatively little out there about the overall effect of virtual education initiatives on education as a whole.

By creating novel ways of looking at old disciplines or by facilitating low-cost, long-distance education in virtual environments, classrooms with major virtual world components are slowly turning  calcified education system into a highly flexible, modern machine.

I've talked in the past about how schools that adopt virtual worlds as major parts of the learning process can – and have – upended established elite universities. Now let's take a look some new academic research that argues interactive virtual world education will pay dividends to students as well as institutions.

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Turning Words into Pictures: A Pixels and Policy Proposal

Virtual communication allows for all sorts of fun and interesting innovations on the traditional written word. Here's one of my favorites. This is a word cloud that contains the most-used words in Pixels and Policy's recent article, "A Commentary on the Ethical Dilemmas of All-Virtual Workplaces."

Wordle: Virtual Work

Click the thumbnail for a full-sized image.

Not surprisingly, virtual was the most-used word, but honesty and communication also pop up frequently. I'm considering including these word clouds at the top of every article to give readers in a hurry the quick gist of a piece. 

Data and content visualization is an emerging hobby of mine, and I think it makes for a much more interesting reading experience – in addition to providing something that both looks good and offers a bit of content consolidation.

What do you think?

The Future of Pixels and Policy: Expanding and Refocusing on Analytical Research

It's rare a blog gets to say it will be reducing its publication rate due to an excess of success, but I'm proud to say this is the case for Pixels and Policy.

As readers know, I recently took up the position of Editorial Coordinator for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. This position, though demanding, is a great privilege and a chance to help publicize some of the best virtual worlds research out there. It's published work from a wide range of professionals including Robert Bloomfield of Metanomics, Garrison LeMasters, Edward Castronova, and Dor Abrahamson.

I love the work and feel it will result in a much better product coming from Pixels and Policy, both in the form of guest pieces from established researchers and in the form of a renewed look at our analytical style and focus. Since its inception, Pixels and Policy has been about innovation and staying ahead of the curve. I intend to keep the blog fresh and novel with periodic facelifts and new features.

What readers may not know is that the success of Pixels and Policy's research and engaging articles goes well beyond features in the BBC's Magazine Monitor, Foreign Policy in Focus, Truthout, and other news and research organizations. Pixels and Policy's unique approach to analyzing how virtual worlds are affecting our real-world public policy and international relations was integral in my application packet to The George Washington University's prestigious School of Media and Public Affairs.

I'm proud to say The George Washington University sees as much potential in Pixels and Policy and the role of new media in setting policy agendas as I do. I'll be joining their fantastic team both as a student in the Media and Public Affairs program and as a research assistant to a professor and long-time advocate of the role of media's influence – both old and new forms – on the international relations scene. 

This offers unique opportunities for Pixels and Policy, but it does come at a cost. As a result of my work both with The George Washington University and the Journal of Virtual World Studies, in addition to other concerns, I've decided the best course of action is to scale Pixels and Policy back to publication three times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday instead of our current six times per week. This will provide the time necessary to write deeper, more analytical pieces that do justice to the blog's original mission of shedding light on the growing importance of virtual worlds and digital communication in the business and policy spheres.

Pixels and Policy isn't going away. In fact, it's in a stronger position than ever to bring together a wide range of industry and academic voices. This is already underway, with recent guest pieces by everyone from virtual world entrepreneurs Ariella Furman, Pooky Amsterdam and Gary Arthur Douglas II to planned pieces from educators making use of virtual world technology to bridge the achievement gap in troubled schools. Pixels and Policy will even be adding a new regular columnist and a junior researcher, finally allowing me to use the royal "we" that is the symbol of so much P&P controversy.

I look forward to continuing this journey with you, and as always, I invite your questions or comments. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of the blog, or shoot an e-mail directly to me at I'd love to hear your thoughts about the downshift in publication frequency.

University Finalists are the Real Winners of the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge

Back when Pixels and Policy was just starting out, I wrote a piece about the United States Army's ambitious Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge, a program designed to find new and innovative methods for military training and research built in virtual environments. Now the Army has announced its finalists, and the non-government winners are surprising.

As it turns out, the list of non-government finalists (conveniently provided by Virtual Worlds News) samples heavily from universities with robust virtual worlds and Second Life programs. As I've reported in the past, large-scale adoption of virtual world degree programs is significantly reshuffling the power structure in American colleges, and the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge provides the best evidence yet that universities needn't be Ivy League to grab major kudos from Uncle Sam.

Let's take a look at what the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge results mean for the future of virtual worlds both in higher education and the traditionally tech-phobic public sector.

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Are Businesses Burning Out on Virtual Conferencing?

Virtual consulting companies are popping up across the country, but could these Metaverse entrepreneurs be miscalculating the scale of corporate interest in virtual worlds?

One report argues that 2010 will see a marked downturn in corporate interest in virtual conferencing and digital events. Could the boom time be ending already?

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what's in store.

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Trademarking Avatars and the Future of Virtual Ownership


Aimee Weber (TM)

Back in late October I wrote about how how Second Life content creator Aimee Weber sought to have her avatar's name made into a registered trademark. Well, all legal hurdles were cleared and a bit of virtual world history made in the process. 


This is a natural progression of any technology that allows individuals to make profit. Many virtual worlds journalists have been predicting an "avatar singularity" – where the user creates and owns a single avatar for use in virtual worlds as far afield as Blue Mars and Everquest.

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