Gold Farm: Shanda Games Becomes Year’s Best Stock IPO

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  Games like CrazyKart rocketed Shanda's share price.

Making money in the virtual world is easy. It's real-world finances that elude even trained economist and stock speculators.

It's a sign of the times, then, that the most profitable public offering of stock so far this year comes from little-known Shanda Games (NASDAQ: GAME).

You may not know Shanda, but you will. Titles to its credit include the new and reviewer-acclaimed Aion and popular teen-targeted browser MMORPG Maple Story.

To find out just how many bags of money Shanda made on the NASDAQ and why this means big things for gaming companies, read on below the fold.

Continue reading Gold Farm: Shanda Games Becomes Year’s Best Stock IPO

Second Life Proves Fertile Ground for Nursing Education

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Virtual medical training yields real results.

A few weeks ago we outlined how South Dakota State University was adopting Second Life as a virtual medical training simulator.

Now The Metaverse Journal reports that Second Life is finding a new life as an educational tool for midwifing and child delivery.

From the article:

The birthing unit is so much better than most in existence in the real
world. As a Registered Nurse (but not a midwife), I’ve witnessed half a
dozen births and even from that limited perspective I can totally
appreciate how much better a birthing environment Te Wāhi Whānau
is compared to even the better hospital-based birthing units.

As a
clinical simulation for midwives, I can see its power as a key adjunct
to lab-based learning and practicums.

Read on to find out why Second Life is getting into the business of birthing babies, and why this is good for the quality of medical care nationwide.

Continue reading Second Life Proves Fertile Ground for Nursing Education

The L.A. Times Contemplates America’s Avatar Addiction

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As we discussed yesterday, the recent spate of virtual reality action flicks has Hollywood is gaga over gamers.

Between James Cameron's Avatar, the Bruce Willis vehicle Surrogates, Gerard Butler's Gamer, and anything else currently in the pipeline, more people are experiencing virtual worlds through old media than ever before.

The Los Angeles Times has a thoughtful report on the prevalence of virtual worlds movies and what this means about what our society is thinking:

"One life isn't enough for anyone anymore," said Mark Neveldine, who co-directed "Gamer" with Brian Taylor.
"Part of it is people get heavily isolated today and then they also
greedy, they want more than the life they have and what it can offer."

Read on to uncover why the Los Angeles Times thinks the trend of virtual worlds flicks will only increase as we move deeper into the Metaverse.

Continue reading The L.A. Times Contemplates America’s Avatar Addiction

New Virtual World Educates Kids Without Ads

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It seems any virtual world dedicated to the interests of kids is awash in advertising from companies desperate to snare new customers in the impressionable youth population. Not so with a new educational world, reports the Washington Post:

Wonder Rotunda, the creation of former international trade lawyer Eric
Garfinkel, opened for business online in August.

Parents pay $45 for a
year-long membership, or "park pass" at the site, a two-dimensional
virtual world based in part on some of the Great Falls resident's
earliest memories as a kid growing up in Queens.

Thanks to that subscription fee, the site doesn't have the
advertising that blankets most kid-oriented sites, and there's a
pleasant, old-school look to the thing.

Wonder Rotunda aims to educate kids on a wide range of topics, from healthy eating to American culture. The Rotunda will find some competition in its healthy eating aims – Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia recently opened a world catering to the same subject. But there's enough traffic to go around – according to the Post article, over 9 million kids visit these worlds every year.

As more families turn to virtual worlds as creative and educational outlets for their kids, the prevalence of advertising is becoming a concern. This is where Wonder Rotunda really makes a break for innovative territory. As a review from CommonSenseMedia.org confirms, the site is completely ad-free, creating an immersive educational experience without hawking products to pint-size future consumers.

This makes a strong case for the educational integrity of the Wonder Rotunda project, and at $45, it costs less for an entire year of membership than a month of some supplementary education programs. That credibility will boost Wonder Rotunda in a field crowded with educational worlds but lacking in quality content.

We will be following Wonder Rotunda as it breaks across the Metaverse with the promise of providing an interactive and engaging educational source for young, internet-savvy avatars-to-be.

Is Hollywood Finally Taking Virtual Worlds Seriously?

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Has Hollywood made up its mind on whether virtual worlds are important?

With the release of Bruce Willis's heavy action flick Surrogates, Hollywood finally seems to be moving virtual reality from the realm of Weird Science to John McClainville.

One of our early articles focused on popular perception of the Gerard Butler film Gamer, wherein Mr. Butler plays an avatar engaged in life-and-death combat while controlled by another person miles away. Despite only grossing $19 million domestically, the low-budget flick turned a profit and got people asking: Are virtual worlds cool?

Read on to find out why Hollywood is suddenly making the Metaverse the preferred realm of self-exploration for their flawed anti-heroes.

Continue reading Is Hollywood Finally Taking Virtual Worlds Seriously?

Northern Kentucky Univ. Gets a $6 Million Virtual Worlds Mecca

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Northern Kentucky University is joining South Dakota State University and St. Paul College in Minnesota as a pioneer in the virtual world revolution.

According to an article in Scientific Computing, Northern Kentucky University just received a $6 million grant to construct a virtual world informatics center complete with the academic-sounding CAVE: computer assisted virtual environment.

Read on to find out how NKU is poised to change the model of how virtual worlds research is conducted, and why the Midwest will soon be in the driver's seat of academic research into virtual worlds.

Continue reading Northern Kentucky Univ. Gets a $6 Million Virtual Worlds Mecca

Virtual Economy Booms; Real Economy Busts

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The future world reserve currency?

Second Life may know something we don't, if this morning's report from the disconcertingly-titled Manolith is any indication.

It appears the economy of Second Life has surpassed that of the real world by a large margin, as the real-world recession fails to penetrate the confines of the Metaverse. Investors wiped out by the subprime mortgage scandals may want to pay attention.

The mad scientists at Linden Lab report stunning growth in the virtual world, with Linden – and real – Dollars flying out of wallets to the tune of $50 million per month.

That makes the locked-up credit markets of developed nations seem flimsy by comparison, with high interest rates choking real-world borrowing. Read on to learn how virtual economies are evading the real-world financial fallout.

Continue reading Virtual Economy Booms; Real Economy Busts

Questing: UC Irvine Gets $100,000 to Study World of Warcraft

Research Week continues with the happy announcement that the Unversity of California – Irvine received a $100,000 National Science Foundation grant to study World of Warcraft. The hundred grand gift from the federal government will go to study the social and cultural aspects of online gaming – mainly how strangers come together and agree on workable groupings for quests and combat.

For more on U.C. Irvine's study and how it's going to answer some of the lingering questions related to online gaming, jump below the fold.

Continue reading Questing: UC Irvine Gets $100,000 to Study World of Warcraft

Astronauts Turn to Augmented Reality on the Space Station

Ever tried reading the instruction manual to a space station sewage system while in zero gravity? According to the crew of the International Space Station, it's hard. Damn hard. So hard, in fact, that astronauts turned to the European Space Agency for augmented reality helmets that display repair instructions and data right on the machinery.

Read on for a full breakdown of augmented reality helmets, iPhone temperature sensors, and how ESA made a space helmet out of garage scraps.

Continue reading Astronauts Turn to Augmented Reality on the Space Station

Baumann Festival Merges Real-World Cinema, Virtual Audiences

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Second Lifer Glasz DeCuir sent us an interesting set of links via Facebook this morning that shed light on a new real-and-virtual film festival. The Baumann Festival (Spanish-language link) creatively merges independent short films from the Barcelona area with Second Life by creating a virtual screening room for every short film submitted.


The festival, hosted in part by big name Spanish communications giant Terrassa Digital brings together dozens of aspiring filmmakers from across Spain for a showcase of emerging talent and a chance to workshop and network with other filmmakers.

It features experimental film, documentaries, animation, and about a half dozen other fields, and often draws a solid real-world crowd in Barcelona.

But now, it seems, the organizers of Baumann Festival are aiming for a bigger crowd: the world.

By bringing the Baumann Festival into Second Life, its organizers hope to greatly expand the event's networking capabilities. It makes sense. This way, anyone stopping by can view the work of Spain's most creative filmmakers. 

This is the wave of the future. In terms of a cheap way to reach hundreds of thousands in an audience normally beyond the scope of a local festival, virtual worlds are an obvious choice. If the event is successful and word-of-mouth carries about standout films in the festival, Barcelona filmmakers may find themselves receiving calls from as far afield as California and Australia.

Thousands of people who never previously heard of Baumann Festival will get a taste of it this week, as the festival runs through tomorrow, with a grand film festival slated in-world on September 19th.

Pixels and Policy will be there. Will you?

You can visit the Baumann Festival screening green and find out more information about the festival in-world by visiting the following SLUrls:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/NEXE/97/168/28

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Oryx/108/14/22