Last year, Google set the blogoshere abuzz when it announced it was pulling the plug on Lively, Googles answer to Second Life. One criticism of existing virtual world was that they are separate services and users can’t easily move among them. Lively attempted to address that issue by allowing users to create visual rooms that can be embedded in Web sites and blogs. Google’s entry into three-dimensional virtual worlds was closed when the number of people who logged into the service was well below the target set by Google and far behind Second Life from Linden Lab.
Second Life had burst on to the scene in 2003 as an escapist's three dimensional domain where colorful avatars - digital alter egos that users create - could travel and socialize with other "residents". But it didn't live up to the early hype. Second Life averages about a million monthly users, a small number compared with other online services like soial networking site Facebook.
However Second life is getting a renewed lease on life as a setting for trade shows, employee meetings and other corporate events for the likes of Northrop Grumman. Cigna Corp., Intel and Wells Fargo and Co.
When American soldiers and police officers from across the United States want to learn how to operate Northrop Grumman’s Cutlass bomb disposal robot, they go to the military contractor’s secure Space Park installation. But they don’t jump in a car or hop on a plane to get there. That’s because Space park exists only in cyberspace, or more specifically, in the computer operated world called Second Life.
Stephane Abrial is the commander of NATO’s Supreme Allied Command Transformation. He is the first European to hold a strategic military position since the creation of the Atlantic Alliance. In an interview, he stated that the enemy no longer uses only classical military means, but also propaganda and terrorism. He believes that another challenge that the new NATO faces is "cyber war", attacks on the virtual world.
The "Virtual World" has also extended over into the domestic and military worlds.
Rather than selling goods and services to users, companies are turning to virtual offices and landscapes as tools for employees and business partners to collaborate and learn.
Sarah Watson , a 19 year old at the University of Central Florida, goes by the name of Rosa Willful, a virtual world on the internet. While sitting in the comfort of her home, her character or avatar, traveled the UCF digital landscape to learn what to do as a real- life volunteer poll worker in Orange County.
Last year, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission awarded a two year, $75,000 grant to UCF to develop the second life program. Officials will be watching to see how effective the poll watcher program is and will compare the second life- trained with those who received the traditional face to face training.
Dozens of hospitals, medical schools and health foundations have staked out space in the online community Second Life, where participants can build their own virtual clinics. ER nurses log in to the virtual world where each assumes control of an avatar- a cartoon rendering of a nurse wearing crisp blue scrubs.
In a drill, which lasts three hours, the nurse-avatars must create a triage system, assess each patient and figure out how to isolate the most contagious. Virtual training also typically costs much less than a full dress drill with hired actors. It costs $1000 to buy virtual land in Second Life from Linden lab and about $300 a month to maintain control of it.