Received news via Bryan Alexander’s Twitter about a virtual world that’s in beta called Twinity. They’re going to create virtual worlds based on real cities. The current beta version is Berlin. At first glance, the layout seems very accurate and there is even a Google Map of Berlin embedded into the virtual interface. The controls are similar to SecondLife, though a bit more clunky at the moment. It is beta, afterall. There is in world voice communication as well and there are options for different languages.
SecondLife still gets a fair amount of press among language teachers who are using it as a environment for speaking practice. I’ve never been much of a fan of the idea, mostly because the technical overhead, reliability, griefers, and the learning curve for SecondLife never seemed to justify the the activity of speaking via an avatar within a representation of the real world. With this version of virtual Berlin, the challenge would be to find an activity that took advantage of the representation and was engaging enough to justify the extra classtime. Ideally, this would involve interacting with native speakers as well. If anyone has suggestions, I’d appreciate comments.