Virtual Worlds 2008 Preview

(Originally published at SLNN.COM)

Online Registration ended yesterday for Virtual Worlds 2008, a conference covering a wide range of issues surrounding online immersive three dimensional user experiences which opens in New York City later this week.

New York, Virtual Worlds 2008 opens Thursday at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in New York City and today is the last day to register for the conference. This is an important conference for anyone interested in the business of virtual worlds and Second Life. Topics of technology, marketing, and legal aspects will be explored.

John Swords of The Electric Sheep Company will present a Virtual Worlds Platform Shootout where Second Life,, Icarus, Multiverse, Metaplace, IMVU, Flash-based Web worlds and others will be compared from a developers perspective. Later, Adam Frisby, who works with OpenSim, will gather with folks from Qwaq, realXtend, Ugotrade, and Sun Microsystems’ Project Wonderland to discuss Open Source Virtual Worlds. Representatives of Multiverse, Linden Lab, IBM, 500 Mirrors and Qwaq will discuss security issues for these virtual worlds.

There will also be discussions about the use of virtual worlds in the enterprise work place, including 3D Command and Data Centers for Network Operations ("Green Data Centers"), Energy & Facility Management, Building Automation, and Data Visualization, Why the 3D Virtual Workspace is Necessary for Today's Information and Knowledge Management Professional, and Making the Case that the Business Challenges Driving Demand for Virtual World Use in the Enterprise Are More Important than the Technology

Yet Virtual Worlds are going mainstream and the topics go way beyond the technology discussions. Many people recognize the importance of the social component of virtual worlds and Robin Harper of Linden Lab will be joined by members of Millions of Us, Intel, Rivers Run Red and IBM to discuss The Collaboration Cloud: Teasing Out the Social Networks Inherent to Virtual Worlds and Making Them Work for Your Organization. Another panel will discuss The Evolution of Games and Social Networks: Virtual Worlds Everywhere. Still others will discuss the role of the user-generated content that members of these social networks create.

All of this raises many legal issues. Who owns what rights to user-generated content in virtual worlds? How is intellectual property protected? What are the legal issues about currency and property in virtual worlds? There will be a whole track dedicated these issues.

Then, there is the aspect about where virtual worlds actually intersect with the lives of real people. This is illustrated best by panels in the Kids and Teens in Virtual Worlds track. Topics include Kids and Tweens: Why Virtual Worlds Are The New Saturday Morning TV, The Evolution of the Toy Industry: Retail, Virtual Worlds and Kids and From the Mall to Virtual Worlds: Reaching Teens in Virtual Hangouts. There are several case studies and then explores ethical issues with Marketing to Children in Virtual Worlds: At Play or As Prey?

However, even though Virtual Worlds 2008 has a great lineup of panels arranged, the conference may end up following the example of so many other conferences where the most interesting sessions take place in discussions on the exhibition hall, in vendor hospitality suites, in the bars and other gatherings away from the main conference.

Based on the flood of press releases that have been coming out, this sounds highly likely. Avatrian is promoting its custom avatars, terraformation work, and historically precise and fantasy-inspired armours. DAZ 3D will be promoting their tools and models to help game developers and TurboSquid will be promoting their tools.

For those who want to build a new virtual world from scratch, Icarus Studios and Vivox will be there. Vivox provides the voice chat for Second Life. PayByCash will be there to present its solutions as well.

Wyndstorm Corporation will be touting its 3D destination, RipLounge, which “doesn't require users to download any software”. VastPark will in preparation for their public beta which starts in mid April. Mycosm, will also be showing their wares in the exhibition hall.

To help navigate all of these new virtual worlds and tools for building them, 3Dconnexion, a Logitech company, will be promoting their 3D mouse, “The SpaceNavigator”.

So, whether you are interested in the panels and the keynotes, or simply the fascinating list of vendors, Virtual Worlds 2008 is the real life destination where many people interested in the future of virtual worlds will be gathering at the end of the week.

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