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Monday, February 2: Leo's Pick: There

Groundhog Day

Leo Laporte

Gertrude Stein once said of her childhood home, "There is no there there." But at There (http://www.there.com), there's plenty of there there. There is an imaginary world that's a lot more fun to visit than are many real-world places I've been.

Five years in the making, There is the brainchild of Will Harvey, a Stanford computer science Ph.D. and game developer, and Jeffrey Ventrella, an expert on artificial life from MIT's Media Lab. The two raised $33 million from a who's who list of techies, including gaming legend Trip Hawkins, Kevin Ryan, and Bruce Leak. Harvey and Ventrella built an elaborate 3D virtual world and invited people to come and play.

You Are There?

There is massively multiplayer, but it's not a game like EverQuest. It's a free-form community. There has clubs, nightly activities, contests, and races, but the chief activity in There is chatting. The avatars are surprisingly lifelike, and you can use gestures and facial expressions to get your point across.

The world of There has its own economy. When you arrive, you're given 10,000 There-bucks. Be careful how you spend them. You can buy a new wardrobe or hairstyle; toys such as paint guns, hover boards, and dune buggies; and even a pet, but everything is expensive. Even a T-shirt can cost hundreds of There-bucks.

You can earn more bucks by selling your There creations, or you can buy more with a credit card. The current exchange rate is around 1,700 There-bucks for each American greenback. The company isn't sure if it'll eventually charge a monthly fee for There, but it'll undoubtedly make a pretty penny on There-bucks. And it's already signed on a number of real-world designers, including Nike and Levi's, to make There items.

There lends itself to community. I rented a clubhouse for 3,000 There-bucks a week and invited my friends to stop by to pet the dog, relax in a hot tub, or play a brisk round of paintball.

I'm ready to rock when There goes public. There's no word from management when that will be, but I'm guessing it can't be too far off.

Site of the Day: The Advertising Slogan Generator

Here are some of the slogans this mechanized marketing marvel came up with for The Screen Savers (http://thesurrealist.co.uk/slogan):

  • Whatever You're into, Get into Martin Sargent.

  • Choosy Mothers Choose Martin Sargent.

  • There's First Love, and There's Megan Love.

  • America's Most Trusted Megan.

  • See the Face You Love Light Up with Morgan Webb.

  • The Curiously Strong Morgan Webb.

  • I am Stuck on Patrick Norton, 'Cause Patrick Norton's Stuck on Me.

  • It's Shake 'n' Patrick Norton, and I Helped.

  • The Screen Savers, the Other White Meat.

  • Little. Yellow. Different. The Screen Savers.

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