Last month Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide held a grand opening for a hotel brand that guests won't be checking into for more than a year. Human beings must wait, but avatars are welcome in the first of the chain's new aloft hotels, which has opened its digital doors in Second Life, a 3-D computer-generated world.

Second Life is hot Internet property, where players around the world spend about $350,000 a day to outfit their avatars, buy “land,” build homes, and have virtual fun. It is so popular, in fact, that Reuters last month became the first mainstream news agency to assign a full-time reporter to follow news inside the role-playing game.

Starwood built the aloft property in this virtual world to entice visitors to stop by to see the new brand, a stylish alternative in the limited service market, and give designers feedback. The community is responding. Among the comments so far has been that the walls in the public spaces are too bland. (See rendering above.) Starwood says it's addressing the issue by changing the plain white curtains to a textured metal mesh, and developing a contest for the Second Life community to submit digital artwork for the lobby walls and considering a local artists program for the real-life aloft properties.

An aloft will open in 2008 in Charleston, S.C. Others are in development in Lexington, Mass., the Philadelphia airport, and the San Francisco airport.

To visit, take your geekmobile to Second Life (basic subscriptions are free) at, or peruse a companion blog at

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