Feds look for their avatars in 3-D

The government eyes a virtual world of its own

Many agencies have staked out so-called islands on the virtual world Second Life, but now the government wants software to build and host a virtual world of its own for collaboration, training, simulation and analysis.

The Agriculture Department plans to award multiple contracts under a program to develop a fully immersive, persistent 3-D experience in a virtual world populated by avatars that can be customized to resemble real-life users, according to documents published on the Federal Business Opportunities Web Site.

The virtual world’s features would need to be at least as good as or better than what’s offered publicly by Second Life or World of Warcraft, according to the statement of work for the project.

The virtual world would be hosted on USDA systems behind the firewall, with access generally limited to federal employees. Eventually, some portions of the virtual world could be opened up to the public.

Several federal agencies are working together to explore virtual worlds as one way to help the government accomplish its missions, the statement said. For example, USDA's Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Information Resources Management College at the National Defense University collaborated on a prototype with two enterprise virtual worlds to test the feasibility of a “trusted source” hosting environment.


Related Story:

Virtual learning gets second wind from Second Life


Proposals are due Feb. 24; indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed unit price, delivery/task order type contracts are being considered. A contract for the program would be good through the end of fiscal 2010 with three possible extension years, according to the notice.

USDA said the government wants off-the-shelf or existing software solutions that run on commercially available hardware for the project. The government also wants the software’s architecture to have:

  • Open standards
  • Modular design
  • Adaptable interfaces
  • Reusable services
  • Leveraged data
  • Dynamic security
  • Internet delivery and
  • Scalability and extensibility.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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