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  BBC Radio 1 Holds Real, Virtual Festival  
Posted 2006-05-12 by Tony Walsh
BBC worker Alice Taylor, who blogs in Wonderland, revealed today that a Radio 1 festival slated to take place in Dundee, Scotland, will also make an appearance in the virtual world of Second Life. The fest launches on Saturday, May 13, featuring streaming audio and nearly-live video highlights beamed across the internet from the real-world locale. Performers include Primal Scream, Snow Patrol, Keane, Pink, and Feeder. Sadly, the bootlegged version of U2 unique to Second Life will not be making an appearance.

According to Taylor, "Every virtual festival-goer will get a wee digital radio to take away with them, which will broadcast Radio 1 in-game, wherever you are. There's also, I hear, these Radio 1 teeshirts for your avatars. And dancing. And a chance that you could appear on-screen at the actual festival - the jumbotrons may or may not take screengrabs of the in-game festivalgoers." This is a fairly high-profile event for Second Life, although it's not the first live music event to be staged across virtual and actual space.
  Vivox Gives ‘EVE Online’ A Voice  
Posted 2006-05-10 by Tony Walsh
Massively-multiplayer spacefaring game EVE Online will soon provide its players with integrated, real-time voice communications, thanks to services provided by Boston-based Vivox. According to a joint announcement by EVE's maker and Vivox, players will be able to create and manage voice conference channels in-game--currently, communication is conducted through text chat or third-party voice services. Vivox's voice chat will be offered as a premium service option to EVE subscribers, who may prefer in-game integration over unofficial, separate solutions such as Teamspeak or Ventrillo.

In April, I interviewed Vivox's CEO Robert Seaver and VP of Product Management and Marketing Monty Sharma in an article entitled "Connecting Real Voices Through Virtual Worlds." The article details Vivox's efforts and approach in bringing VoIP services to virtual worlds such as Second Life and EVE Online. Mark Wallace edited the article, and his thoughts on the Vivox/EVE development can be found here.
  Virtual ‘Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge’ Open For Business  
Posted 2006-05-08 by Tony Walsh
Modern burlesquers the Pussy Cat Dolls lend their brand-power to a virtual environment where visitors can dance, chat and be exposed to advertising. In a preview press-release sent out in mid-April, the Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge (now abbreviated to "PCD Lounge") was touted as "a holy grail for partners/advertisers (such as media companies & music artists) who are always seeking new ways to reach teens." A link to Universal Music via the PCD web site, an in-world screenshot Universal-friendly billboard, and the fact that the Pussy Cat Dolls are Universal artists suggests that sponsorship of the PCD Lounge is already locked in.

The PCD Lounge features a 3d virtual world populated by cel-shaded, customizable avatars. Activities include listening to music and sitting in a hot tub. The Lounge's communication channel is AIM-compatible, allowing cross-talk between the virtual and "real" world. Unfortunately, PCD Loungers can't yet share a hot tub with AIM users. The Lounge is currently in beta, but according to its official web site, will be released in May--which gives Evil Twin Studios, the makers of the product, 3 weeks to launch.
  Mr. Rogers and Dr. Phil Invade Xbox Live  
Posted 2006-05-01 by Tony Walsh
If your next Xbox Live session involves talking to Dr. Phil McGraw or the ghost of Mr. Fred Rogers, you may be experiencing the audio agitation of's "Brad." Armed with an Xbox Live headset modified to transmit pre-recorded soundbites from his computer, Brad goads his fellow Xboxers into mad fits of confusion, profanity and intolerance. scrapes the bottom of the Xbox Live cultural barrel, offering a not-safe-for-work audio assault that must be heard to be believed. My favourite clips among the sometimes-hilarious results include "rogers gets discovered" and "dope and god."
  ‘Second Life’ Inhospitable For Some  
Posted 2006-04-18 by Tony Walsh
While the virtual world of Second Life has grown rapidly since 2005, the number of residents logged in at any given time hovers around 6,000--about 3% of the total number of accounts created--and is usually scattered across Second Life's massive, contiguous 3D spaces. It sometimes becomes difficult to find more than a handful of gathered avatars in a single spot. Combine this with frequent, required software patches for the client "viewer" that connects to the virtual world, resident-initiated attacks on the "grid" of servers that binds Second Life together, crotchety performance on either or both of the server and client end of things, an overabundance of information, sub-par search tools, and an overall lack of creative cohesion. What you end up with is a harsh environment for some newcomers to adjust to, despite the world's boom in population.

Metroblogging co-founder Sean Bonner isn't sure what to make of "Sucknd Life." Although his localblog network added the game world of Azeroth to its stable of real locales, Bonner isn't adding Second Life any time soon. On his personal blog, Bonner wrote: "Here's my usual Second Life experience - Log in. wait for everything around me to load. Keep waiting. Finally loads, Try to move, no luck. Keep trying. Keep having no luck... check the map to try and find some people. Ok, there's some. Teleport there. Oh, that's a private zone that I can't get to, so instead I've been teleported off to this other place where no one is....Finally get some place where there are other people. They are all Away or talking about scripts. I try to talk to several of them. No one ever responds."

Continue reading: ‘Second Life’ Inhospitable For Some
  Azerothian World News  
Posted 2006-04-15 by Tony Walsh
Lately we've heard of a live-blogging effort from World of Warcraft's Blackwing Lair, and the addition of the lands of Azeroth to real-world locales covered by the Metroblogging group. Today, I bring you a machinima newscast (below) that straddles the border between in-game fiction and out-of-game commentary. It's a bit long, but has some amusing moments.

Continue reading: Azerothian World News
  Connecting Real Voices Through Virtual Worlds  
Posted 2006-04-11 by Tony Walsh
Given Second Life's overabundance of objects such as 3D castles, functional cars and "deadly" ray-guns, finding a traditional British phone box inside that virtual world seems unremarkable at first glance. Users logged into Second Life are accustomed to inhabiting castles, driving cars, and firing ray-guns in its game-like environment, even though none of these actions impact the real world in any meaningful way. The phone box, however, contains a secret. Inside is a device capable of making outgoing calls to the real world. Dial it in virtual reality, get a call in actuality. Hear that ringing? It's the future calling.

No longer mere play-spaces, videogames and virtual worlds are becoming pop-culture institutions, workplaces, and social systems. The once-rigid borders between synthetic worlds and the so-called "real" world are evolving into permeable meshes, allowing information and culture to pass back and forth with increasing frequency. Vivox is the only communications company bridging these spaces as a main line of business. Its integration of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology into the fabric of online worlds is a unique development that will allow users not only to engage in real-time voice conversations while immersed in virtual environments, but directly control their communications from within, and even dial up the outside world.

Continue reading: Connecting Real Voices Through Virtual Worlds
  Warner Bros Records Seeks ‘Second Life’ Mini-World  
Posted 2006-04-08 by Tony Walsh
Ethan Kaplan, Director of Technology for Warner Bros Records, is looking for "someone who knows Second Life like the back of their hand to create a mini-world type thing for a band of ours." While Kaplan wouldn't offer any further details, he promised to let us know when the virtual world project is ready to go public.

Let's hope the Warner Bros effort does better in Second Life than Wells Fargo's Stagecoach Island.
  North American Podcast Adoption At 1%  
Posted 2006-04-07 by Tony Walsh
Forrester blogger Charlene Li summarizes some recently-released data on Podcast adoption in North America: "Our survey showed that only 1% of online households in North America regularly download and listen to podcasts. And when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content."

This is hardly encouraging for podcasters and those considering getting into podcasting, and while I think podcasting is overhyped, I am surprised the adoption rate is so low. I can only guess at the reasons for the low number:
1) Nobody knows what a "podcast" is, or thinks it's Apple-exclusive technology.
2) 99% of podcasts are crap.
3) Even if someone knew what a podcast was, and knew of a good podcast to listen to, usability/interface barriers are too high.
  Mixed Reality Radio  
Posted 2006-03-26 by Tony Walsh
Second Life resident Gwyneth Llewelyn informs me that American public radio show Radio Open Source will be broadcasting simultaneously via real-world airwaves and through Second Life's digital domain in a special event slated for Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm EST at the virtual headquarters of the Electric Sheep Company. According to Sheepster Hank Hoodoo, "The episode will feature dialog between [host Chris Lydon] and his guests on issues related to virtual worlds, focusing on our own personal favorite, Second Life."

This mixed reality broadcast involves four real in-studio guests (including the brilliant Sherry Turkle) and radio show producer--each of whom will also be logged in to Second Life. Audio from the show will be transmitted more or less simultaneously in real and virtual space. Virtual reality audiences, located exclusively in Second Life will be able to pose questions to the guests. Real-world audiences may tune in through public radio channels and via streaming audio channels. The show also publishes a podcast.
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