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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Virtual World Income tax in China, MIT

A Realer Virtual World
Andy Greenberg, 11.07.08, 12:01 AM EST
MIT's Joe Paradiso is building sensors designed to tie real and virtual worlds together.
A mock-up of Paradiso's X-Reality

Josh Lifton's Shadow Lab
For the large majority of Internet users, virtual worlds like Second Life remain a confusing landscape of empty buildings, failed marketing and furry strangers. But Joe Paradiso believes that virtual worlds could be more than an over-hyped gimmick. They just need a dose of reality.

Paradiso, a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, is working to create what he calls X-Reality or Cross Reality, a system designed to bring virtual and real worlds into a practical sort of alignment. With funding from Second Life parent company, Linden Lab, Paradiso aims to use sensors, displays and software to bring real-world data into virtual worlds and to integrate access to virtual worlds with real-world situations.

Yahoo! BuzzLater in November, Paradiso's team of seven Ph.D. students plans to switch on 45 PDA-sized devices mounted on the walls of the Media Lab's building. Each is equipped with an iPhone-like touch screen, a version of Second Life's software, wireless connections, cameras and a variety of audio, motion and infrared sensors.

According to Paradiso's plan, anyone in the building wearing a small electronic badge can walk up to one of the small screens and peer into a landscape in Second Life and communicate with users. Second Life users will likewise use the screens to look into the real world through floating windows in the virtual world, watching passersby or even remotely sitting in on meetings.

"These devices are designed to be like wormholes that let you tunnel through to a second reality," says Paradiso. "Second Life is detached. We're tying it into the real world."

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Get Quotes: The result, says Paradiso, will be a physical building that users can access from anywhere in the world. And unlike other "virtual meeting" setups where users' digital avatars awkwardly sit around a virtual conference table in Second Life or another constructed world, an X-Reality meeting would take place largely in the real world, with some virtual world users participating via Paradiso's "wormholes."

"We're just extending human perception through these nodes," says Paradiso. "We're funneling bits back and forth to the virtual world."

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The potential is for X-Reality go beyond mere meetings. Josh Lifton, a former student of Paradiso's, used his Ph.D. thesis last year to show just how much Second Life can mirror reality. In a project he called "Shadow Lab," Lifton created 35 "smart" power strips and plugged them in throughout the Media Lab. Each was equipped with sensors capturing audio, movement, light, humidity and temperature data, along with the power usage of other appliances drawing electricity from the strip.

China Levies 20% Tax on Virtual Currencies
China announced a 20% tax on income generated from income made in trading virtual currencies last week. The move comes after an attempt two years ago to simply ban users from profiting off of virtual trades, but observers, both analysts and users, are skeptical about whether or not the country can enforce the new ruling, reports the Financial Times. According to the WSJ, 70% of voters in a survey opposed the new ruling, but the government is moving forward with its plans. The announcement [Google translation] was distributed to local tax bureaus, asking them to determine the original prices of currency and virtual goods where users fail to do so. According to reports, the change comes due to both an increase in the value of the market, currently estimated at about $1.45 billion and growing at 15-20% each year, as well as concerns over the use of virtual currencies in money laundering. Just last week, for example, a Korean group was arrested after laundering $38 million over 18 months back into China from virtual currencies. China isn't the first nation to begin taxing virtual currencies: Korea launched a value added tax last year, and Sweden has been rolling out its tax plan over the last year as well. [via PlayNoEvil]

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