The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Chief Information Officer (USDA OCIO) has awarded a contract to procure virtual world (VW) software technology: "to demonstrate that the virtual worlds solution(s) can satisfactorily resolve cross-agency issues. A major objective is to create a multi-agency advisory committee to create new and innovative government-wide solutions... to enable the Government to build, customize and host one or more interactive persistent virtual worlds where users can operate over networks for the purposes of collaboration, training, rehearsal, analysis, simulation, experimentation, and socialization."
Contract awards were as follows (kinks to press releases and platform pages):
Advanced Software Systems - VastPark
Avaya Government Solutions - web.alive
Science Application International - OLIVE
Three Wire Systems - VetAdvisor Virtual Room, based on Teleplace
The interest of the US government (and soon, I hope, European governments and administrations) for deeply interactive and immersive 3D communication and collaboration technologies is speeding up. The list above includes two of my favorite platforms: Teleplace, which is the richest and most complete, and web.alive, which runs in a browser and is very easy for the end user. My other favorite platform is Second Life, unfortunately not included in the awards, for its social features and user created content.
See also the Virtual Government (vGov) site and the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference 2010.