It looks like Google might really be planning an avatar space. We noted vague fuzzy hints of something a year ago, but it now seems Arizona State is doing student sign-ups for a prototype test of an avatar/game/social network for a "major internet company" which everyone seems to think is the G-borg. Google isn't talking, no real details are out there that I found, and the beta isn't live yet, but... the cutesy little graphic on the ASU page asks:
"Are you into 3D modeling, videogaming, etc? Do you have a virtual avatar? If so, click here!"
(Note that's a *virtual* avatar, as opposed to a *non-virtual* avatar.)
Anyway, accordingly, and based on past rumors, the speculative chatter seems to be all about somehow linking Orkut social networking & Google Earth/Maps & SketchUp to a Java client (or something like that). Obviously, this won't be the WoW-Killer, but if the guesses are right, it would be fun to see how Google mashes up Facebook, Street View & Club Penguin.
And apparently, all the virtual avatars will be wearing sandwich boards bearing geo-targeted Google AdWords. (Just kidding!)