VoIP in Second Life

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
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VoIP in Second Life

On Wednesday, Vivox announced their "one million free minutes" promotion which enables the 3D virtual world "Second Life" users to speak to each other via their phones using PC VoIP to landline termination (PC-to-PSTN). Natively Second Life doesn't support PC-to-PSTN, however users have been able to use other third-party workarounds, like TeamSpeak, which I have written about previously. Vivox has an interesting concept whereby they are building "phone booths" into the Second Life virtual world that allow residents to call out to any telephones from them. They are also building microphones into the virual world that will allow users access to voice chat of up to five people at a time. The only catch is that users would need to have Vivox accounts and the company's software client installed to take advantage of the phone booths or the microphones. Alas, the service is currently only available on Windows.

Of course, this got me thinking. The FCC ruled that any VoIP service terminating to the PSTN must abide by the e911 regulations and provide accurate location information or you will pay FCC fines. So um, if I go to a Vivox phone booth in Second Life and dial 911, should I expect a cadre of 3D firemen/police avatars appear at my location in my virtual world or I should expect them in the real world? What if I have an emergency in Second Life, like I learned how to fly and then got stuck in a digital wall or something? What If I want to dial 911 in the virtual world for some virtual assistance?

Imagine the confusion...

"911 emergency, can I help you?"

"Yeah, can you help me, I'm stuck in this wall."

"We're on our way. Can you tell me how this happened?"

"Well, I was learning how to fly..."

"You were flying? Is that codeword for you were taking drugs? Don't worry, we're sending an ambulance, not the police and we are obligated to protect your privacy."

"No. I was flying and then this bug in Second Life caused my avatar to get stuck in the wall. Half my body is stuck and my head has become very pixelated."

"Sir, I think you've hit your head or have been taking something. I have your address as 32 Main St. Orange, Connecticut."

"Yes, that's my address. But you need to send help to the Galipoli island I created. My handle is thegreatone. Hurry!"

[end stupid humor]

In any event, this e911 location stuff is so confusing. Last I checked, HR5252, which would clarify e911 rules hasn't passed the Senate. Forcing Vivox to figure out e911 location for a person within the Second Life virtual world seems a bit extreme. They could of course force anyone who registers with them to register with their home address, but what if the Second Lifer logs on using a different PC in a different location? This is where laws are clearly not ready for the techological age. Their should be exemptions for cases like this.

What say you all?

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