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Virtual Worlds Expo: Real Investments In Virtual Space

Wednesday, 3 Sep 2008 | 4:19 PM ET
Virtual Worlds Expo
Virtual Worlds Expo
Virtual Worlds Expo

Today the Virtual Worlds Expo is underway at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the big business of the virtual space is incredibly real.

In the first half of this year more than 300 million in venture capital financing poured into virtual world startups, with over 250 new virtual worlds popping up, and generating $700 million plus in business.

This event is where startups hype their new virtual environments, investors come to hunt for the next big thing, and perhaps most interesting, Fortune 500 Companies make big announcements in the space. There are the media and technology companies who are trying to bring their brands online with virtual worlds, and then there are the companies who are using virtual worlds to cut costs.

As travel gets increasingly expensive, and as companies become increasingly global, it makes more and more sense to conduct business in this virtual space, whether it's training employees, or holding virtual meetings.

Virtual Worlds are Real Business
CNBC's Julia Boorstin looks at how Fortune 500 businesses are investing in the virtual space to cut costs in this increasingly global economy.

PricewaterHouseCoopers is testing an internal virtual reality to connect its far flung offices, aiming to cut travel costs by recruiting, holding specialized training sessions and international meetings, all in this virtual space.

Cignais the first healthcare provider to communicate with its members through virtual worlds. They're doing things like delivering workshops on healthy eating, but they're trying to take advantage of the virtual space by using impossibly large props to communicate an idea.

And PWC and Cigna aren't alone. Two-year-old Metaversality of San Antonio--a spinoff of Second Life--builds virtual worlds for companies including Toyota,AMD, and France Telecom. Virtual Worlds are still big business even as these companies may be watching their spending elsewhere.

And let's not forget about Second Life, the most prominent virtual world, which has nearly 15 million registered users. Hundreds of businesses from IBMto Starwood have built a presence in the virtual space.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.