Monday, November 3, 2008

NASA World

It's one small step in the realm of virtual worlds and online games, but one large step for government into that world: NASA has selected three teams to present proposals for creating a massively multiplayer online world to carry the space agency brand. NASA hopes its virtual world will attract young people to careers in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) and thereby help build its future workforce. The request for proposals for the MMO project went out at the beginning of the year. Long a user of simulations for training within, NASA now hopes to employ them outside the agency to draw support. According to the RFP:
MMO games can help players develop and exercise a skill set closely matching the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills increasingly in demand by employers. These skills include strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and cooperation, and adaptation to rapid change. Today’s students have grown up with digital technology and video games and are poised to take advantage of the MMO communications and community building tools to collaborate on complex projects.
The screenshot above comes from the virtual world Entropia Universe, which is one of the options NASA will consider as a host for its world. Entropia is run by Mindark, a Swedish company. Saber Astronautics, six-engineer firm in Denver that hopes to set up a satellite repair shop in space, heads the second team. Members include Australian IT and gaming shop, Nocturnal Entertainment (video of their Flowerworks game below) and another Aussie company, Big World, which makes the middleware to create multiplayer online role-playing games.

The third team pairs North Carolina game-maker Virtual Heroes with Manitoba, Canada-based Project Whitecard. In August, the team won a contract from the Canadian Space Agency to create an online immersive game. According to the Project Whitecard press release:
The product will be designed to teach mathematics at the elementary and high school levels, featuring the famous Canadarm2 and Dextre robots. Canadian astronaut Julie Payette's role as the robotics lead on upcoming space shuttle mission STS 127 will be featured as students are immersed in the space robotics environment, take control of the virtual robotics systems, learn and apply age-appropriate math concepts and complete a series of robotics tasks similar to those assigned to Ms. Payette.
Virtual Heroes was among the original game firms involved in creating the Army's online recruiting game, America's Army. Serious games-maker Project Whitecard has created and won funding for an online interactive recreation of the Apollo Moon mission called Project Moonwalk.

The three teams will deliver line presentations on Nov. 7 at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Huge hat tip to Virtual Worlds News!

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