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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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 24, 2010

I "attended" Virtual FOSE and a couple other virtual conferences last fall but there hasn't been anything major recently. It seems the fad is already dead. There are plenty of online meeting tools and video conferencing options available for anybody with a USB port to plug in their webcam. Let's use those and save development dollars and valuable time people will waste on customizing their avatar.

Tue, Feb 23, 2010

Virtual Farm. Back to work!

Mon, Feb 22, 2010 Chuck Bowie, MD

I'm sorry but didn't anyone hear of videoconferencing. Mock situations can be performed over video as well, if not better, than a cheesy unrealistic fake world. If the USDA is looking to find things to do with extra money maybe they need to give it back to other agencies that could use it better.

Fri, Feb 19, 2010

Second Life may not necessarily provide the security or the flexibility that other systems have. Software such as this is not used for gaming, unless a game is actually developed in the system. Instead it has been found to reduce travel costs for training, encourage participation and allows for training in a life like environment, such as first responder training without the danger of an actual life threatening event.

Thu, Feb 18, 2010

Since NASA, DoD and other agencies already have Second Life sites, both external available to the public and internal, behind firewalls for inter agency communication why is USDA not simply following suit? Probably because they haven't a clue and are trying to appear tech savvy and cutting edge when in reality they are career CSRS employees simply marking time till they can get max time and grade (and maybe an early out bonus to boot).

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