Jeff Foust in The Space Review:
NASA is currently experimenting with some ways to get the public more involved with future exploration of the Moon and other destinations, particularly through the use of virtual reality tools; the agency is hosting a “Participatory Exploration Summit” this week at the Ames Research Center on this subject. But, by doing so, does NASA run the risk of blurring the lines between hard physical reality and its computer-generated counterpart and, in the long run, make it harder to support human exploration of the solar system?
NASA’s best-known foray into this area has been its presence in Second Life, an “online digital world” in the words of its developer, Linden Lab. Second Life is one of a number of online multiplayer games that have become popular in recent years, but unlike other such games, there are no specific adventures to undertake, battles to fight, or worlds to conquer. Instead, it’s more of an unstructured environment where people can explore, interact with others, build (and buy and sell) all sorts of items, and… whatever else one might do in ordinary life, and then some. NASA’s Collaborative Space Exploration Laboratory (CoLab) has its own presence, or “island”, in Second Life, that’s used to host meetings and as a technology testbed of sorts.