As I think most readers know, There.com has a contract with the US Army to build a virtual world. Thanks to Simon Carless for pointing out this interview with There exec (and Prodigy and SOE vet) Robert Gehorsam posted on Homelan Fed. Apparently, they expect to go live in September 2004. It is not clear whether there will be any commercial implementation planned, along the lines of America's Army, or if this is just for in-house use.
"[The] world is fully Earth-sized, with a real-world terrain database. So if you were to view it from orbit (which we can do) you'd see...the Earth. And if your avatar were to walk from San Francisco to New York, it would take a very, very long time.
Interesting to see the good old Earth done as a VW. Currently, it would probably be a pretty boring (as well as long) walk across the US, because so far, it seems they've only modeled Kuwait City.
We've built a portion of the downtown area of a large Middle Eastern capital city where we have a significant presence today. And we can put pretty large numbers of people into that now, and even some synthetic characters (there are a group of women in abayas walking down the street talking and gesturing with each other.)
Where will the recreation of Earth end? Well, if you see someone is walking around your town with a tape measure and a laptop, this might be the explanation...
Gehorsam provides some interesting explanations re why There was chosen for the contract. He notes at one point that choosing an existing game company makes sense because: "think about the demographics of our military, and you'll quickly realize that they are gamers."