Competition challenges college students to build their campus in 3-D on Google Earth...

The folks over at Google have opened a contest for college students across the country to build their campuses in SketchUp and they are going to fly the winners out to Mountain View for a three day 3-D modeling symposium, all expenses paid. The contest is open to all comers and all submissions must be in by June 1st to be considered. The winning entries will be posted in the online 3-D Warehouse that Google Earth enthusiasts use to share and collaborate on large modeling projects.

I get the sense that Google is out to turn their virtual Earth into an interactive experience beyond any we have ever witnessed, and this is a good way for them to build a reputation on US campuses. Several bloggers have predicted that Google envisions their Earth program as a virtual world akin to Second Life, but built in an extension of users real lives as opposed to other such sites which create gaming environments that are wholly imagined and unpredictable in how it will evolve and develop. Google, according to these rumors, is looking to create an interactive environment that would be more of an extension of each users real world experience, which could be used by both the avid fantasy gamer and the CEO who is looking to be, literally, in two places at one time.

IBM has recently received a lot of attention for holding a press conference to announce a new virtual incubator project in Second Life. If the engineers at Google can somehow offer a first person perspective to their Earth interface, and offer tools to allow people to communicate across the globe in an environment that gives them all the benefits of meeting in person (i.e. conference room, privacy options, etc.), such an ambitious project would be revolutionary and all of our lives will never be the same. There are already indications that Google is moving in exactly this direction, as they have begun exploring the possibilities of placing advertising in video games, for instance on billboards on the side of the road in car racing games. If they are able to devise a profitable and innovative advertising model for a virtual world, Google will have a leg up on Microsoft and Yahoo in another important advertising medium.
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