Around the (virtual) worlds

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An overview of some of the most popular immersive environments across age groups.

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  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with other participants.
  • Around the (virtual) worlds

    1. 1. Immersive online environment whistlestop tour
    2. 2. The tour <ul><li>Purpose: review the most popular* virtual worlds to determine what attracts users across age groups and to get a snapshot of what is happening in the genre. </li></ul>* Source: Kzero's Quarter 3, 2008 Graph of virtual worlds http://www.kzero.co.uk/blog/?page_id=2092 Unless otherwise indicated, figures were current as of September 2008. Information owners and launch dates were sourced from my own research. Notes have been posted on slides for convenience of display as embedded slide shows.
    3. 3. Handipoints <ul><li>URL: http://handipoints.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 5 to 8 year-old </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 1 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Handipoints Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: March 2008 </li></ul>Handipoints is aimed at turning chores into a game. Parents and children set up a list of chores, homework, health, fitness and attitudinal goals and parents assign points values to each item. If the child completes the item satisfactorily, the parent awards the points and the child can then use the points to choose accessories for his or her avatar. There is some ability to interact with others.
    4. 4. Barbie Girls <ul><li>URL: http://barbiegirls.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 8 to 10 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 15 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Mattel, Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: April 2007 </li></ul>BarbieGirls is tied directly to the appeal of the fashion doll for which it is named. Participants can customise their avatars, decorate a virtual room and invite others to meet them there, chat and play games.
    5. 5. Poptropica <ul><li>URL: http://poptropica.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 8 to 10 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 20 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Pearson Education </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: September 2007 </li></ul>This felt more like a game than a virtual world. Although I could play with other players, I couldn't chat to them freely. The graphics are bright and fun and the characterisations reminded me of the Rug Rats or the Simpsons. One of the islands I explored had a museum with educational facts about the art and the artists.
    6. 6. Neopets <ul><li>URL: </li></ul><ul><li>http://neopets.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: </li></ul><ul><li>10 to 13 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: </li></ul><ul><li>13 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: </li></ul><ul><li>Neopets,Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: </li></ul><ul><li>November 1999 </li></ul>This seems more of an MMORPG* than a virtual world. The avatar customisation area was very complex – breed, colour, personality, blends of strengths and weaknesses (see below). There are games to play both on one's own and with others and guilds to join. * Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
    7. 7. Club Penguin <ul><li>URL: http://clubpenguin.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 10 to 13 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 19 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Disney Online Studios Canada </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: October 2005 </li></ul>Although the graphics were 2D, the music and the presence of non-playing characters (NPCs) telling jokes and giving tips combined with lively music and chat made it very lively. The safety controls in this game were interesting – users can choose whether to set chat to pre-selected phrases or free chat. The games were simple and easy to understand but still challenging.
    8. 8. Habbo Hotel <ul><li>URL: http://habbohotel.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 10 to 13 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 135 million as of May 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Sulake Corporation of Finland </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: January 2001 </li></ul>With 130 million registered users, Habbo Hotel is the largest virtual world/2 D chat room on the internet. Participants can customise their avatars and decorate their virtual hotel room. There are public areas to visit for chat and games to play, but chat is the primary focus of this world.
    9. 9. Stardoll <ul><li>URL: http://stardoll.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 13 to 15 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 33 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Stardoll AB </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2004 (as paperdollheaven.com) </li></ul>This site was created by and for people who enjoy higher end paper dolls. With a user base of 33 million, obviously there are more than a few of them. The site clearly states that “first and foremost, stardoll.com is a celebrity and dress-up site”. The community aspect of the site are chat rooms called clubs. This seems more like a community of interest and game (status of Famous a big goal) with some social interaction rather than a virtual world to me.
    10. 10. Gaia online <ul><li>URL: http://gaiaonline.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 13 to 15 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 15 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: </li></ul><ul><li>Gaia Interactive Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2003 </li></ul>Gaia describes itself as a world populated with millions...gathering to chat, play games, watch movies, and show off their creativity through customized avatars, profiles, and journals”. Players can also a car, an aquarium and a house. Due to the lack of fluid movement between locations, I found I had to create separately then find chat rooms. Gaia also has an MMPORG engine that powers several games.
    11. 11. goSupermodel <ul><li>URL: http://gosupermodel.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 13 to 15 year olds </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 7 million (as of Feb. 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: watAgame, Denmark </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2003 </li></ul>The sense of community seems to come from live and asynchronous chat. Participants can create a blog, upload images and make friends To be a &quot;SuperStar&quot;, one needs to get and give hugs as well as get good at the games. Participants can get a mentor to show them the ropes and join a club/guild. There is a room with wardrobes for fashion to customise and invite others to comment on.
    12. 12. IMVU <ul><li>URL: http://imvu.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 13 to adult </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 35 million (per IMVU web site) </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: IMVU Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2003 </li></ul>The people I talked to in the game were between 16 and 23 (or so they said) and were there just for the chat. There are also games, the ability to blog and shopping. Scenes are not connected in such a way that an immersive experience is uninterrupted. Participants start off in their own fully furnished penthouse. Surprisingly, although the ads for the game can be overtly sexual, the chat in here was far tamer than that I encountered in Habbo Hotel, which is aimed at younger people.
    13. 13. Meez <ul><li>URL: http://meez.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 15 to 20 </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 7 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Donnerwood Media </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: June 2008 </li></ul>The Meez site is about chat. My first avatar I styled to look as much like myself as possible and the reaction I got from the other avatars was “Who is the old lady? Are you a teacher?” ( see if you can spot me). As with most of the other sites in this review, this is not a virtual world so much as a series of 2D chat rooms. The room I was able to design for myself included a remote control that allowed me to view YouTube videos.
    14. 14. Vivaty <ul><li>URL: http://vivaty.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 20 to 25 </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 3 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Vivaty Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2007 </li></ul>Vivaty is a 3D chat room client that is downloaded, sits on a toolbar and advises when there are messages from in-world. Each avatar gets a fully furnished apartment with a YouTube display, image display board and a basic wardrobe. Users travel to various “scenes” to chat and interact with other players. The act of going to another scene involves clicking on a button that links to a web interface with links, so the feeling of being inside a world is not fluid.
    15. 15. There <ul><li>URL: http://there.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 20 to 25 </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 2 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: </li></ul><ul><li>Makena Technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2003 </li></ul>There is virtual world rather than a series of scenes. The graphics are unpolished and neither the settings, the avatars or their clothing are particularly sophisticated or detailed. Users are allowed to build in the game and There has a developer program for people wanting to create assets for other players to buy. The system requirements are relatively modest.
    16. 16. Second Life <ul><li>URL: http://secondlife.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 30 plus </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 15 million </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Linden Labs </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2003 </li></ul>Second Life is synonymous with the term virtual world for many people and is both famous and infamous. It allows for full avatar customisation, has its own economy, allows for rental and purchase of virtual land and creation of an infinite number of objects that can be scripted and animated. The education sector has embraced it due to the ability to create, build, script and collaborate with others and although trials have been small in nature, an evidence base is starting to build up. There is a Teen Second Life for people 13 to 17. Best practice in Virtual Worlds conference –March 2009
    17. 17. Twinity <ul><li>URL: http://twinity.com </li></ul><ul><li>Age group: 30 plus </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users: 50 thousand </li></ul><ul><li>Owner/creator: Metaversum GmbH </li></ul><ul><li>Launched: 2008 </li></ul>Twinity is a 3D virtual world based on representations of real cities. Users can rent and furnish apartments, customise their avatars, explore the 3D model of Berlin and chat with other avatars. I was amazed at the ability to upload a photo and have it moulded onto the face of my avatar although the end result is less than life-like. It includes the ability to text and voice chat. At this writing (25 June 2009) Twinity is readying to launch virtual Singapore.
    18. 18. World of Warcraft URL: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com Age group: 14 plus Registered users: 11.5 million (As of Dec. 2008) Owner/creator: Blizzard Entertainment Launched: 2004 World of Warcraft or WoW is a commercial game platform to which players subscribe. It was not on Kzero's list but is worth mention due to its high profile, popularity and the community that has grown up around it. WoW is a MMMORPG that features high-end graphics, cinematic music and the need to build relationships with other players. Players must develop skills in professions as well as battle, earn money and be responsible members of groups (temporary groups of players banding together to complete a task) and a chosen guild (permanent group of players). Once players have worked up through 80 levels of proficiency, they then join raid groups to complete group tasks that can last several hours at a sitting.
    19. 19. About Education.au Education.au is Australia's leading Information and Communications Technology agency for educators and delivers a range of web services and strategic advice to clients in the higher education, schools education and vocational education and training sectors. Web site: http://www.educationau.edu.au Twitter: http://twitter.com/educationau Blogs: http://blogs.educationau.edu.au YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/edauvids
    20. 20. Immersive online environment whistlestop tour

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