Is Neuronet A Scam? {Update 12}

Posted on Friday 29 December 2006

There’s a bit of press (hype?) making the rounds on something called Neuronet (Link or maybe this Link), a supposed plan for a fiber optic-based, virtual reality-centric network intended to be separate from what we now call the Internet. It would, according to the website, supposedly be “the first network designed from the ground up specifically for the transmission of real-time virtual reality data.” Considering that I’ve argued that the future of online Metaverse-style technology isn’t just 3D but a mashup of both 2D (websites) and 3D (virtual worlds), the exclusion of the current Internet rang alarm bells in my head. This doesn’t make sense to me, so I did a bit of digging.

The obvious first step was to take a look at their site… actually sites. The first thing I noticed is a lack of substance to not just some, but all of the claims. There’s plenty of handwaving, but nothing that I couldn’t make up and post in a fictitious site in a day or two. It is, as the saying goes, a lot of talk with nothing to show (except the pretty website itself).

Let’s examine some of what that talk is:

  • The Neuronet is sponsored by the International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT).
  • From what I can tell the “International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies” is nothing more than the website. A quick search indicates that their history appears to go back to when they registered the domain name… a whole month and a half ago. Unless of course you check the other link I provided which is a duplicate site and goes back to March 2006 (maybe it had another name then, which would account for the switch from “iabit” to “iavrt”). That’s a frighteningly short time, all things considered.

    Of additional interest is that both domain registrations are

    – a) registered by Go Daddy which is, from my experience, one of the favored services for scammers and hackers, and

    – b) devoid of organizational information so that there is apparently no public information provided when a WhoIs search is conducted.

    Suspicious yet? I certainly am.

  • IAVRT is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering scientific research and business development in the area of Virtual Reality (VR) technology for the benefit of society.
  • Now when I read that they’re an “international not-for-profit organization” that really piques my interest because “not-for-profit” is such a worthless tag. I can set up a non-profit too, and I’ll ensure the company never turns a profit by raising my own salary to prevent that from happening. So I dig a little deeper.

    I’m not sure that there’s a registry for “international not-for-profit” organizations (you’d think there would be, but I’ve not yet been successful in finding one… though I’m trying and may have found it at, only I’m now waiting for my account to be activated to check on IAVRT’s non-profit status, assuming it’s registered and available to me).

    Lacking any other ideas, I decided to determine something about their location, so I did a search using, among other entries, “280 Nelson St” Vancouver BC”. That yielded some interesting bits such as the marijuana seed distributor apparently operating in the building. Of note was that there is both a Mailboxes Etc listed as a WiFi Hotspot and a fair number of what appear to me to be internet-only businesses run at that location; everything from what I suspect are earnest operations to questionable website-only redirection services. My guess is, based on the Google Map image of the location, that this is a converted warehouse that’s home to any number of tiny, artsy, web-based operations nestled in among a few more traditional outfits. Additionally, there seemed to me to be a healthy web design and support community (e.g. Infectious, Siberix, PowrTools Software, etc) at this location. That could easily explain the professional-looking site they have. In fact, it’s possible that IAVRT is nothing more than a front for a web-based outfit.

    That last thought leads me to this comment on their Neuronet Domain Names Open Letter (Link):

    Recognizing the considerable value of domain names in this new space, IAVRT will offer Neuronet domain names on a pre-registration basis in order to support the creation of the second generation Neuronet. It should be noted however, that Neuronet domains and their associated neurosites, will not become widely accessible to consumers until 2009 at the earliest.

    Now I’m almost certain this is a scam. Pre-registrations for what? Heck, they may as well be leasing Mars condos, afaic. But at least this operation covers it ass:

    In the future, Neuronet domain names may rival or exceed the value of Internet domain names, but until the Neuronet is mass-market accessible, investing in Neuronet domains should be considered speculative.

    Interesting how the beginning of the letter starts with declarative statements such as “In 2007, the International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT) will launch the Neuronet to facilitate the global transmission of immersive virtual reality (VR) data.” or “Ultimately, the Neuronet will be able to provide mass-market VR and gaming connectivity on a global scale.” and the not-IF-but-“When that occurs, a tipping point will be reached that will in many ways mirror that of the Internet.“, but then gives us the whole “it’s all speculative” spiel.

    Now that I feel like I have a real sense of what’s going on I go back to my hunch that this is a web developer with a get-rich-quick scheme. The best lead I had was the “iavrt” = “iabit” thing, so I do a quick search on “iabit” itself and find something interesting: a link to a press page on that domain that isn’t IAVRT (Link). And that webpage takes me to this page for an outfit called Stay Sane Communications (Link) (registration at Go Daddy, of course), which is – you guessed it – a web development house based in Vancouver B.C. (and probably now at the location on Nelson Street). From there I get some names that are almost certainly behind IAVRT. The first is Simmons (Link). From her bio:

    After graduating from Concordia University, Montreal in 1991 Simmons moved to the west coast and began working as a technologist.

    When Simmons is not working on technology projects, Susan can be found kayaking to scenic islands within British Columbia’s coastal waterways.

    The other is Pederson (Link). From his bio:

    Pedersen is well established as an industry innovator and skilled project planner in Canada and Argentina. His roots are in traditional graphic design, desktop publishing, and print.

    He participated in the development of one of the first Flash based sites on the Internet and developed the first 3D photo web sites using Quick Time VR and VRML technologies.

    Eiler has taught as…

    Now the picture starts to clear a bit.

    This appears to be a two-person operation, Susan Simmons and Eiler Pederson, with roots in multimedia and some ties to vr. And while their bios aren’t bad, they’re a long way from what I’d want to be reading before I started sending money for anything connected to IAVRT.

    The idea has some merit, but until I see a name with a real reputation attached to this operation, I’ll give it little more credence than the hardluck-story-pot-of-gold emails I get from Africa.

    via 3pointD

    {Update 1: I see C|Net hasn’t learned much from the recent Second Life media-hype fiasco. Writer Stephen Shankland has posted a glowing story about IAVRT with the bold headline “Virtual reality to get its own network” (Link) but doesn’t appear to me to have any more information than what’s provided on that website. Too funny.}

    {Update 2: To make it easier to see the link between Stay Sane and IAVRT, here are the links of interest: {Note 16Apr2008: this now goes to inappropriate adult content}

    The first four all have the same IAVRT homepage and the last one leads you to Stay Sane’s information.}

    {Update 3: I’ve been corresponding with C|Net on this and was just informed that they reached an individual who is lending his – and someone else’s – name to this effort. I don’t recall having heard of the person to whom they spoke, so at this stage I’ll remain skeptical. At the very least, as I told C|Net, the manner in which this is being handled is lacking in clarity. This may not be a scam as I suspected, but I’ll keep my skeptic’s hat on for now. It still looks to me like they’re raising money for something that’s incredibly risky and not beyond criticism.}

    {Update 4: It appears that the C|Net article has been updated. They really should tag it with “update” or do something to alert people to that fact. Anyway, here’s some additional info from that article:

    “The first-generation network is strictly an R&D network and will function as a sort of sandbox for virtual reality and gaming innovators around the world to develop new applications for a second generation network,” IAVRT co-founder Chistopher Scully said in an e-mail. No services yet are signed up to use the network, he added.

    Scully didn’t name any of the organization’s backers or members in his e-mail, but said Mychilo Cline, author of a virtual reality book, is on the group’s advisory board.

    However, some bloggers aren’t convinced the Neuronet is real. One is 3D designer Sven Johnson, who opined on his blog Thursday, “I’m almost certain this is a scam.” He was alarmed by the lack of identified IAVRT backers and the possibility that Neuronet is a “get-rich-quick scheme” funded by domain name sales.

    Scully denied that position: “I can assure you the network is not a scam. Funds raised from the sale of network domain names will offset the considerable costs associated with the creation of the network.”

    A shame they didn’t properly identify me; real product development and virtual development – including things such as experience design, market research and branding – go a bit further than “3D designer”, which is just one of the things I do. Oh well.

    Okay, so who exactly is Christopher Scully and why should I, or anyone, trust him? It’s been a while since I’ve read any books on virtual reality, so his name isn’t ringing any bells for me.

    Regardless, if nothing else, the manner in which this has been handled so far would give me serious pause as to how they would handle things in the future. As someone with a stake in the future of virtual worlds, I’d be happy to be wrong.}

    {Update 5: I just took a quick look at Slashdot to read some of the comments about IAVRT (Link). Some funny stuff over there.}

    {Update 6: Caught a comment over on Slashdot where ortholattice made an interesting discovery: “iabit” stands for (get this) – International Association of Brain Interface Technologies. From an earlier press release by IABIT (Link):

    Vancouver, Canada – The International Association of Brain Interface Technologies (IABIT) is pleased to announce a US$10 million fund for the study and advancement of Brain Interface (BI) technology. The fund will issue one US$500,000 grant and two US$250,000 grants each year for ten years beginning in 2007.

    Brain Interface refers collectively to the disciplines known as Brain Machine Interface (BMI), Brain Computer Interface (BCI), Direct Brain Interface (DBI), and Adaptive Brain Interface (ABI). BI is technology through which computers interface directly with the brain. In the field of medicine, the technology being developed promises miraculous advances that will someday enable persons with spinal cord injuries to regain mobility, blind persons to regain vision and deaf persons to regain the ability to hear. While medical applications are at the forefront of BI research, other commercial applications abound. Over the next decade, BMI technology is expected to revolutionize the video gaming, film & television, medical, and defense industries to name a few.

    This just keeps getting better and better.}

    {Update 7: This will probably be the last, or next-to-last, blog post update. For anyone finding this interesting, alarming, amusing, or any/all of the above, check the comments (which I hope stay spam-free for a bit). There’s plenty of new information popping up in them, especially in regards to someone named Nigel Malkin (thanks to “romem”). Best to just read those.}

    {Update 8: I was beginning to tire of this thing (hence my last update) but instead it appears it’s re-energized by a threatening email coming from someone claiming to be Christopher Scully. You can read that on my follow-up post – reLink}

    {Update 9: Just as an aside, Engadget has picked up on this story. That alone isn’t especially worth noting here; however, the number of people copying the article, shoving it onto spamblogs and tracking back to this post in order to get some ad revenue is … depressing. What a bunch of lowlife’s to rip off someone else in this manner.

    The piece written by Donald Melanson didn’t track back here, so I took the first rip-off and turned it into one. The rest will be checked and deleted. And I’m especially glad to see that Melanson got it right:

    The reBang weblog in particular has been doing lots of digging into the legitimacy of the group, and while not turning up anything conclusive, it has led to a wide range of speculation, even including remote possilibility that it’s all an elaborate Alternate Reality Game (ARG).

    Worth reading in its entirely, so head over to Engadget (Link).

    {Update 10: I never expected this would take off. If I had, I’d have posted a simple list of updateable links. Oh well. In any event, Ars Technica has picked this one up (Link). I enjoy that site and their readers’ comments, so you might want to peek in yourself.}

    {Update 11: Broadband Reports has a short blurb on this story, “The Virtual Reality Network That’s Virtual” (Link). Hey, at least my post title is a question. These guys must want to get sued.}

    {Update 12: Someone whom I suspect is Susan Simmons from Stay Sane Communications has posted a comment that might be of interest. Or not.}

      12/29/2006 | 9:58 pm

      Scam or not, the whole idea seems kind of silly to me. If they’re not utilizing existing network infrastructure, then it’s a waste of time. It’s not going to get built.

      Anyway, dot VR doesn’t roll of the tongue like dot COM.

      12/29/2006 | 11:01 pm

      I agree and that’s what led me to the feeling that this was a scam.

      So do you know who this Christopher Scully is? I did a search but didn’t find anything that seemed worthwhile… unless the cinematic angle is tied to the actor that pops up.

      12/30/2006 | 2:50 pm

      Nice detective work. I noticed a few things that intrigued me:

      Images are stock:

      Scripts are freeware:
      //Chrome Drop Down Menu- Author: Dynamic Drive (
      //Last updated: June 14th, 06′

      When I posted an application, I received a standard submission response page, stating my app wold be processed and I would be notified. The form did not have any error checking (I successfully submitted one with no data), and I did not receive an automated email.

      Basically this means that this site, like many I build for myself, was patched together using borrowed and incomplete components. This is typical of 1-3 person shops or those run out of a home.

      Also, the corporate name is a registry?
      IAVRT Registry Operations Inc.
      280 Nelson St., Suite 412
      Vancouver, BC V6B 2E2

      12/30/2006 | 4:15 pm

      Not at all surprising. Thanks for the additional info. That registry part is interesting.

      This does still smell of a scam to me; even well-intentioned efforts can smell that way when they’re asking for money upfront and pumping up the hype with statements like “Recognizing the considerable value of domain names in this new space…”. I don’t see anyone of note recognizing *anything*.

      In the meantime, I did hear back from and they *do* have a listing of international non-profits, but it’s a controlled access list for which I’d have to pay. And even if I was willing to do so, there seems to me to be a decent chance that a recently-formed not-for-profit operation wouldn’t yet be listed.

      12/30/2006 | 4:19 pm

      Don’t forget they are signing up members and companies for upwards of $1000 a pop…

      12/30/2006 | 4:20 pm

      And btw, for those who think this is only about domain name registrations, IAVRT is also selling “memberships”… and they ain’t cheap.

      That’s a lot of money for the *privilege* to be a volunteer and workplace “Ambassador”.

      12/30/2006 | 4:24 pm

      Beat me to it, Ben.

      12/30/2006 | 4:55 pm

      they took down their old press release:

      12/30/2006 | 5:08 pm


      Guess that wasn’t supposed to be there. No problem. I kept a personal copy of the page for future research and reference.

      12/30/2006 | 6:28 pm

      […] reBang is digging in the Neuronet/IAVRT that I first read about on GigaGamez. […]

      12/30/2006 | 7:53 pm

      […] There might be something fishy about Neuronet and the organization behind it. We have not heard back from them for a while now, and there are others who are raising questions about the organization, IAVRT. GigaGamez posted an update, and points to Sven Johnson who is doggedly investigating IAVRT. It was only minutes ago that I got the heads up on a new network devoted entirely to virtual reality worlds. Before I could start writing the post, Jason over on GigaGamez beat me to the punch. This new network, called the Neuronet, will be the world’s first network capable of meeting the data transfer speed requirements to allow for real-time immersive gaming and cinematic experiences. […]

      12/30/2006 | 7:56 pm

      […] Sven Johnson pegged this for a scam immediately and started looking for legitimate sources for the the IAVRT so that he could ask them some questions. Unfortunately, they’ve been hard to get a hold of. C|Net wrote a rather glowing story about the Neuronet, so Mr. Johnson contacted them. C|Net has supposedly been in contact with the co-founder of the IAVRT Christopher Scully. Johnson had this to say: “Okay, so who exactly is Christopher Scully and why should I, or anyone, trust him? It’s been a while since I’ve read any books on virtual reality, so his name isn’t ringing any bells for me. “ […]

      12/30/2006 | 9:05 pm

      You’ve been slashdotted.

      12/30/2006 | 9:22 pm

      Just a little bit fishy… Those memberships and the asking for monies for pre-orders.

      12/30/2006 | 9:32 pm

      Legend. Well done. Nice detective work.

      Paul B
      12/30/2006 | 9:38 pm

      Their website is hosted on shared web hosting, im sure they have many “Servers” . Its hosted at . Possible someone should file an abuse report? Where would they string the wires for a new net?

      Paul B
      12/30/2006 | 9:52 pm

      also, sorry for duoble posting, the second google result for this
      Scully person is some porno website.

      12/30/2006 | 9:59 pm

      Interesting, when I google for each of the books Susan Simmons has authored, I get exactly one hit: her biography. Some of the titles, like “Women, Democracy and the Internet” and “World Wide Web – World Without Women” only appear on that one page, and that is not even including her name in the search. They are obviously completely contrived [see my comment below which contradicts this conclusion – csven], especially when you consider that the books are all about the World Wide Web, and thus the author would obviously promote them heavily online.

      12/30/2006 | 10:06 pm

      There is proof that this is bogus.

      Though similar to the Internet in its ability to connect individuals in different locations, the architecture of the Neuronet will be distinctly different. The entire Neuronet will be hosted on one central server system and then be mirrored to Neuronet metro servers in different geographic locations around the globe. This architecture is required to enable the localized transmission speeds required to facilitate immersive and cinematic virtual reality.

      It is complete idiocy to host the entire virtual reality network at one central facility. This is BS of the highest order. And they say the internet doesn’t scale to their needs… hah!

      [I don’t consider this “proof”. Idiotic? Perhaps. – csven]

      12/30/2006 | 10:10 pm

      I don’t want to be slashdotted. All I did was get sick and spend a little time surfing instead of crawling back into bed where I should have been. That makes it seem like I did something special. I don’t know what IAVRT is; I just know I don’t trust them.

      12/30/2006 | 10:13 pm

      Hey Paul, it appears that the filter here actually works (it’s set pretty severely). Sorry, but could you post that link again? {Not the porn one, I assume you posted something with two links in it}

      And btw, thanks. I never bothered to check those filters. Now I know.

      12/30/2006 | 10:19 pm

      Dan, when I went looking for businesses at that address, I came across something that sounds more relevant now: a WiredWomen-empowerment thing; some kind of organization with a chapter in Vancouver. After I discovered that Simmons was a woman, I immediately thought of that (but didn’t mention it in my post). Now I wonder if it’s her business.

      12/30/2006 | 10:41 pm

      the funniest thing is that they claim they’re going to fund the network infrastructure by selling domain names…right!

      12/30/2006 | 10:44 pm

      For what it’s worth, there’s no such thing as an “international” not-for-profit. “Not-for-profit” is a designation meaningful only with respect to tax-laws, and tax-laws, of course, vary from country to country.

      12/30/2006 | 10:44 pm

      btw, Dan, on that page, as far as I can see she doesn’t actually claim to have authored “books”. For all we know those are pamphlets or articles or something.

      I should also say that while I regarded both their bios with skeptism, I *did* give them the benefit of the doubt. And in regards to being an “author”, I keep thinking about my Aerodynamics instructor who finished writing his book during my final year and handed it out to us as mimeographed copies. It was years later before it actually got published, but I would have called him an author.

      That said, it does seem par for the course as I could see people reading that and immediately assuming she was a published book author when she’s perhaps not. Makes me wonder about someone’s character when they do stuff like that.

      12/30/2006 | 10:54 pm

      Herr Ziffer, I assumed they meant an internationally-operating non-profit, ala Green Peace. When I was looking for a way to verify if they were on some kind of list, I found a lot of companies that use those same words (Google “international not-for-profit”). They’re not alone by a wide margin. And there are probably good organizations mixed in with bad. And as it turns out, there is some kind of listing for that. More than that I don’t know.

      Stone Mirror
      12/30/2006 | 11:16 pm

      The address, which you’ve identified as “having” a Mailboxes, Etc., undoubtedly simply _is_ a Mailboxes, Etc.

      They’re using the address as a mail drop, as are the other businesses listed as being “at” that address…

      12/30/2006 | 11:28 pm

      @Stone Mirror – I started off thinking the same thing. Only some – not all – of those businesses seemed like they *might* have a real space. I just can’t be sure with the information I have.

      It’d be cool if someone could confirm that though, as it’s part of why I spent the time I did chasing down some of that information. It’d be especially interesting if that corporate headquarters was – in fact – nothing more than a mail drop.

      [updated: it appears that it has been confirmed to be a UPS box: – csven]

      12/30/2006 | 11:32 pm

      in a way, you have to give these guys credit for trying. their PR has been picked up and rebroadcast a few times. but it doesn’t take a genius to see there’s nothing behind this but an effort to fleece unwitting fans of VR and next-generation technologies out of their money.

      I guess they didn’t anticipate the power of the blogosphere to so rapidly analyze and debunk their entire effort as a scam.

      there’s no two ways around it. this is a money grab rip-off straight out of the ‘Nigerian prince needs your help’ spam playbook — but with a little more care and attention to detail.

      look, if there were IBM and Cisco logos on their site or some other sponsorship that was believable, it would be pretty interesting. but as it is, it’s transparently an effort to defraud people.

      12/30/2006 | 11:36 pm

      @Ben – That’s what I believe, but I’ll let someone else make the final determination.

      And btw, they do have logos on their site… just look at the “Resources” page!

      12/31/2006 | 12:36 am

      @Dan – I think I might have been right; not books… papers. The one listed on the Stay Sane site isn’t suppsed to be “Women, Democracy and the Internet”; it should be “Democracy, Women and the Internet”

      I found some more info, but now I’m getting tired of this thing. It’ll be hard to top the Brain Interface stuff found earlier.

      12/31/2006 | 1:10 am

      Personally, I love Godaddy, and recommend them to all my friends. They’re the best for self-managed domain hosting. And one of their most popular (and recommended) add-0n services is to anonymize your newly registered name by blocking registrant information from showing up on whois searches. I hate all the spam I get from those things.

      So the first two basis that you quote for this being a suspicious scam are debunked. However, I do agree with you that it certainly seems like a scam. Especially considering that the IEEE is already working on the real-time reliable bandwidth/transfer problems.

      12/31/2006 | 1:24 am

      I think it is unfair to be sliming as being essentially a home for scammers simply because some people who might be disreputable is on the order of claiming that a parking lot is a home for car thieves simply because all the car thieves are there, paying $1 a day and none of them are parked across the street at the $10 a day lot.

      A lot of people – including myself – use Godaddy because they provide very inexpensive domain name services. Basically you can get a domain name, e-mail, and free website with database capacity for less than $10 a year. Other sites charge considerably more just for providing domain name services. Even if all you use them for is to have the DNS services, it’s still one of the least expensive registrars on the planet.

      With their price about 1/4 of other places and with more features, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of people registering sites there. That some of them are or could be disreputable is no reason to tar everyone with the same brush.

      12/31/2006 | 2:01 am

      @Paul and Eric

      Please read my words again: “…which is, from my experience, one of the favored services for scammers and hackers“.

      I’m not “sliming” Go Daddy in the least. Ever heard of a “Stinger” surface-to-air missile? Highly-prized on the weapons black market by a whole bunch of really bad guys… because it does something very, very well.

      Go Daddy is obviously doing something well. Like guarding people’s privacy. Like self-managed hosting. Like keeping prices low. Good for them.

      Personally, I see nothing wrong with Go Daddy being preferred by scammers and hackers. But then I don’t “love” them. To me, they’re just another service.

      @Eric – As to the second point that you call debunked, there is nothing *to* debunk. These two things made me suspicious. Nothing more. Nothing less. Don’t make them out to be more than what I said they were.

      Now, as to the reason for the second item – I rarely come across domains for big corporations with private/concealed registration information. Just the opposite; I see *more* information.

      Now, if IAVRT was some kind of major effort (as it surely must be if they’re building a whole new internet), I’d expect it to behave in a certain way based on *my* experience and leave digital footprints just like any other big operation. It didn’t. I got suspicious. End of story.

      12/31/2006 | 2:55 am

      If we really wanted to know if these guys have any chance of being legit, we’d check with the Cisco sales force. If their going to build a VR-net, you can bet Cisco would be all over them with router and switch sales folks.

      The brain net thing makes me wonder if these guys rented the Matrix, ate some of those MJ seeds, and became a little wacko. ‘Yeah, dude, totally it could happen…’ Hey, its a surprise we haven’t seen more websites like this. :-)

      [ As for Godaddy, few people realize yet just how good they are. I understand they are a target of scammers in terms of domain registrations, but they probably run the best operation – domain names and shared hosting; I understand their data center is years ahead in terms of effective technology and efficiency – no I don’t work for them – but I did just move some web sites over to their hosting… ]

      this is a great story – a [potential] scam turned into great, shared amusement. Thanks!

      12/31/2006 | 3:13 am

      and I love this line from stay sane about who is simmons – does it not sound like she was somehow associated with or was part of CERN?

      “By 1993, when CERN (Conseil Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire) first made web technology available outside the physics community, Simmons worked as a webmaster. ”

      Lets have fun, insert your own…

      “By 1993, when CERN (Conseil Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire) first made web technology available outside the physics community, EP and his wife were working fervently to increase the population of potential future Internet literate contributors. ” [they were having sex]

      12/31/2006 | 3:25 am

      I think some healthy skepticism never hurt anyone. I waited over 10 years before buying into the hybrid market (did some research on them in the early 90s, finally took the plunge and became dependent on one last year).

      I love it the skepticism. Keep it up. I think it’s funny how a perspective can get turned around by focusing on something other than the intended subject. I wonder if this posting itself will get any more attention than it deserves. I hope not.

      I think this whole thing is great. It’s like watching a boxing match between the hopeful and the hardened. Here’s something else ( that got my attention, until I learned that it was closely related to an alternate reality game in London. Still interesting, though.

      12/31/2006 | 3:57 am

      “@Dan – I think I might have been right; not books… papers. The one listed on the Stay Sane site isn’t suppsed to be “Women, Democracy and the Internet”; it should be “Democracy, Women and the Internet””

      I don’t know what scares me most. People inventing fictional books, or authors that can’t even remember the titles of their own works accurately.

      12/31/2006 | 7:25 am

      IABIT via google cache (because the url press you mentioned is not found anymore.. due to some vhost change i guess) leads to a guy nammed Nigel Malkin; the director of IABIT.

      “BI researchers around the world are making quantum leaps forward and the field of BMI technology is poised to explode,” says Nigel Malkin, Director of IABIT. IABIT is a not-for-profit organization founded to enable the sharing of resources, knowledge and technology that will serve to advance the BI industry as a whole while at the same time affording the highest level of respect for proprietary knowledge and technologies.

      12/31/2006 | 7:44 am

      Nice job..

      It’s indeed strange, that lack of information. I work in the VR field and never heard of this initiative, no invitation to participate or anything..

      The only reference to Mychilo Cline on VR I could find is his book and on Wikipedia (, and he could have added it himself.

      Now let’s be patient and see where all this is going. Maybe this is just real and great ;)

      12/31/2006 | 7:45 am

      […] Sven Johnson, who is working on “real product development and virtual development – including things such as experience design, market research and branding”, even thinks this is a scam : IAVRT will offer Neuronet domain names on a pre-registration basis “Now I’m almost certain this is a scam. Pre-registrations for what? (…) […]

      12/31/2006 | 7:56 am

      ok.. sorry for the double post, but it looks like i found something interesting linking Chris Scully, Stay Sane Communications,Vancouver and Nigel Malkin. Please see by yourself :

      The testimonial page of a Vancouver car broker company located in Vancouver/Canada, made by Stay Sane Communications. (check bottom left of the page)

      [developed by stay sane communications ]

      If you take a look at the first testimony, you will see it has been written by Chris Scully (Vancouver, BC)

      [I just wanted to thank you again for such an easy and professional experience. By my calculations, you saved me about $7,300.00 over the best deal I could find here in Vancouver. The car is an absolute dream to drive. I’ll recommend you to anyone I know in the market for a high-end car.
      Chris Scully
      Audi TT Roadster
      Vancouver, BC]

      And if you look up The total bottom of the page/right.. to see the website creditentials, you will see :

      [A Nigel Malkin Creation – Part of the Nigel Malkin Group of Companies – © Copyright Nigel Malkin Inc.]

      12/31/2006 | 10:34 am

      @EP who said “Hey, its a surprise we haven’t seen more websites like this.

      I was thinking the same thing. Then again, maybe they normally don’t get this level of exposure so we just don’t know of them (e.g. IABIT, which never got my attention). And that CERN line made me do a double-take as well; factually correct yet…

      @aage who said “I wonder if this posting itself will get any more attention than it deserves. I hope not.

      I agree. My credentials aren’t especially interesting; certainly not enough to have provided any help to the kirkyan concept I posted and which took some time to get higher level attention from people like Sterling and Cascio (wikipedia “gamers” sure didn’t give the idea much of a chance). I’d rather be known for some constructive things like that concept or the RadTag concept I did before there was even such a thing as a “blogject”; not be known as “the blogger who rooted out a scam”.

      @Dan who said “People inventing fictional books, or authors that can’t even remember the titles of their own works accurately.

      That’s assuming the mistake is unintentional. I’m not sure it is. Just as I’m not sure that any of these names – Simmons, Pederson, Scully – are real people. Simmons (by virtue of that link) and Pederson (by virtue of another registration I found) are looking legit. Scully sounds to me like a work of fiction.

      @romem who said ” leads to a guy nammed Nigel Malkin; the director of IABIT.

      I wondering if Scully and Malkin are related. Ya think?

      @cb who said “It’s indeed strange, that lack of information. I work in the VR field and never heard of this initiative, no invitation to participate or anything..

      I found the entire lack of reference to the W3D Consortium especially curious, myself.

      @romen – Nice find. I think with this we’re at a point where all we need is someone to find a real person and unravel this whole thing because something tells me this has been going on for a while. Thanks for that link.

      12/31/2006 | 10:47 am

      […] Confusion over Neuronet continues. The International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT formerly IABIT) is drawing all kinds of attention. C|Net first reported and it has since been picked up by 3pointD, GigaGamez 2, Eric Rice, reBang, and now Slashdot. […]

      12/31/2006 | 11:00 am

      @csven :

      Here we are… got the flu today so i had lots of time to spend to .. investigate, and here is the result of my investigation :

      This has been going on and on.. This Nigel guy is very good.
      Take an easy look googling for
      “Nigel Malkin” Vancouver Scam

      You will come accross this 2004 page from some “blog”

      (you can also find some nice press releases for instance that one

      Read it, its quite funny but here is some parts of it :

      [Enhanced Air Technologies, of Vancouver, Canada, is marketing a new synthetic compound it calls Commercaire pheromone. When mixed with the air you breathe, it gives people a maternal sense of comfort and happiness. ]

      [Nigel Malkin, director of development for Enhanced Air, defends the product. ]

      [Malkin said the product is sold in various sized refillable cartridges ranging from $300 to $450 for commercial buildings, to $96 for home use.]

      Then; if you look up for Enhanced Air Technologies, you will find a not anymore existant website
      not valid anymore.. but by looking up it on

      An archive on 06 2004, you will find a page with some white text on white background :

      Public Notice: Enhanced Air Technologies decided to remove our Commecaire pheromone products from the market voluntarily in January of this year (2004), only two weeks after our official product launch. While the Commercaire product is a harmless blend of naturally occurring pheromones, we had not foreseen how controversial the product would be. Nor had we foreseen some of the potential negative ramifications or potential misuses of our product line by various industries. Finally, a few concerned consumers and consumer groups contacted us to raise concerns that we shared about potential misuse of our products. Given the strong interest and demand, it was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the ethical decision to make. Should you have any questions about Enhanced Air Technologies, you may email us at:

      And guess what :

      site developed by
      stay sane communications

      To conclude :

      We have to admit that Nigel and SSane got some smart ideas, and you can imagine that this VR website might disappear as soon as some money is invested in it.. as it seems to have happened for the EAT product years ago.

      12/31/2006 | 11:51 am

      Slow Sunday morning. Figured I’d surf a little and found the following:

      The names Scully and Malkin are on the IMDB and while I don’t know if these are related to IAVRT/IABIT, there’s something familiar here.

      Nigel Malkin –

      Christopher Scully –

      Both appear to be low-level types: one on crew and one with a single film credit (for a totally-improvised film). Nothing impressive at all, but enough to show that they are both involved in the “cinematic” industry. Worth keeping in the back of my mind considering so much of this appears to be fiction.

      On another front, the name “Nigel Malkin” also pops up as being involved in… of all things… a food delivery service in Vancouver. Did anyone notice the entry on the Stay Sane website having to do with meal delivery? What an odd wrench to throw into the works, but it does link them again. Anyway, the Stay Sane “live” example website includes a contact address for that company which just happens to be… big surprise… an address provided by Pederson for another one of their registrations, (I’ll let you guys look up the address, but if you google it, you get what looks like a residential neighborhood).

      Checking the mealsoft registration yields that it’s also registered to Pederson who lists a different contact email with where we get a better name to search: Pedro Eiler Pederson. The irisware website also gives us another, offical-looking address:

      Suite 450
      650 West Georgia Street
      Vancouver BC

      ph#: 604-984-9330

      Now after a check of the registration, I get that same seemingly residential address but the date goes back to 1998. I suspect we have a real person and a home address with it.

      Google of the full name “Pedro Eiler Pederson” yields some interesting bits. The most interesting to me is one which associates him with Cathay Online (mentioned in the Stay Sane bio).

      Mr. Eiler Pedersen is the President of Via Technology Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of CathayOnline. Pedro Eiler Pedersen has more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He has been an IT manager and systems developer/advisor for numerous projects and portfolio companies. Mr. Pedersen has specialized in new technologies as well as integration of the Internet into daily business operations.

      Interesting. Guess Via Technology is another lead.

      btw, something more about our buddy Nigel off that site that eventually got us to irisware and the full name:

      Malkin also transformed BC Ferries’ defunct Fast Ferry Assembly Building into the largest movie studio in Western Canada.

      Another interesting tidbit.

      All of this is pretty curious to me.

      12/31/2006 | 12:07 pm

      @romen – pretty funny that we’re both doing this bc we’re ill.

      Nice background on Malkin and glad I didn’t hunt on that end too much since you’ve got it covered pretty well.

      So we have Malkin who may be a creative-scheme guy with ties to the entertainment industry.

      We have Pederson who … I don’t know what he is exactly. A multimedia guru or an identity thief or something else? I’m not sure.

      And last we have Simmons who seems to be involved mostly with Pederson but was apparently involved in the early WWW stuff.

      Now what about Scully? and are there more involved?

      12/31/2006 | 12:13 pm

      Still no online record of “IAVRT Registry Operations Inc.” at the BC registry of deeds. Incorporation takes at least 56 days and they recommend that no company advertise its name until the paperwork is finalised.

      12/31/2006 | 12:17 pm


      Well, Scully must be an invented name.

      If you check the California Cars testimonials page

      then you google for “Chris Scully” “Vance Campbell” for instance

      you will find this article with most of the names used:

      Not to be outdone, former Granville Entertainment’s Vance Campbell rolled out the red carpet […] above Denny’s the much-needed makeover was novice designer Chris Scully.

      Its like the guy reads the newspaper and picks names from it, or the whole canadian “jet-set” is implicated in that conspiracy !

      And indeed Malkin got ties with the studio industries :
      (registered at the same address as , and you will have guessed it in the about page :

      Locationscout360 is a virtual reality web design firm

      yes.. a VR web design firm… :-)

      To finish, a little webarchive part for 2004 scam :

      white text/white background :

      Contact Us
      Ph: 1-888-323-7649

      Enhanced Air Technologies
      280 Nelson St., Suite 263
      Vancouver, BC V6B 2E2

      280.. Nelson St. :>

      The best now would be to go on
      Give a call to Nigel.. expose him the situation and see i guess the iabit/VR websites diseappear faster.

      12/31/2006 | 12:30 pm

      @Steve – thanks for checking that. Why am I not surprised? Amazing.

      @romem – or Scully is a wannabe actor who recently got enlisted because they need a new front man. Maybe.

      Good stuff on the rest. I figure we can pretty much put a fork in this overdone thing now (though I confess to finding all the links to stuff I’d never give a second thought – like Gizmotrainer(!) – fascinating because I’m sure someone doesn’t consider they might be scams).

      12/31/2006 | 12:39 pm

      I was just looking at that locationscout360 and I’d be willing to bet that was created by the same person behind the Stay Sane website.

      {edit – sure enough. They’re on the client list.}

      12/31/2006 | 1:54 pm

      Not sure if anyone posted this articale yet, but it’s aother skeptic in the list:

      Also, searching for ‘iavrt scam’ brings this page as first result, which is good news for everyone.

      12/31/2006 | 2:03 pm

      @eedlee – thanks for the links.

      That post sounds more like what I was hoping I’d find after I first read about IAVRT, but instead only found stuff that seemed bewilderingly uncritical.

      12/31/2006 | 2:08 pm

      something interesting i didnt understand about this story was how to get the coverage.

      their PR was wrote at

      Which automatically spreads it .. “via the wire” – a few examples :,+01:00+PM

      Guess its how cnet came accross the info, but never forget the disclamer …

      Disclaimer: Information contained on this page is provided by companies featured through PR Newswire. PR Newswire, WorldNow and this Station cannot confirm the accuracy of this information and make no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

      12/31/2006 | 2:19 pm

      Yep. Newswire is getting increasing attention as a simple, effective way to put out pretty much any PR message you want. More and more I see people making note of it.

      12/31/2006 | 2:48 pm

      Nigel Malkin is a busy person –

      All of those quotes? I suspect they’re all coming from Stay Sane-created websites. And once again, we get a link back:

      The opportunity to try the Atkins Diet for one week (which translated to three meals a day delivered to my door) came to me from Nigel Malkin, founder and president of The Specialty Gourmet, based out of Lions Gate Studios.

      Here’s the Lions Gate Studio website:

      Doesn’t it strike any of these people that it’s odd The Specialty Gourmet is based out of a film studio which could be too-easily confused with Lion’s Gate Films, which has a different address for their Vancouver facility… and which, of course, they link to on their opening page as if they’re related(!):

      Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada,
      Lions Gate Studios combines state of the art studio
      facilities with exceptional customer service.

      Come Discover why you’ll want to shoot your next
      production at Lions Gate Studios.

      Visit Lions Gate Films.

      And get this, they’re using the same copyright tag at the bottom of the page that Lion’s Gate Films uses; including font.

      I wonder if any part of that Lions Gate Studios site is real or just fiction. Anyone from Vancouver around and able to just drive by the location to see if it *looks* like what they’re showing? Google maps isn’t good enough. Here’s the address:

      555 Brooksbank Avenue,
      North Vancouver BC

      12/31/2006 | 4:12 pm

      I certainly agree with others that this “smells” like a scam. But if this is a scam, then what are other projects aiming to unify the “3D Web” with a proprietary platform centrally-owned by a single entity? Since Second Life is the subject of so much negative attention lately, let’s use them as an example. Are they really so different than IAVRT?

      Second Life claims to provide a platform that can grow to handle the demands of the metaverse, yet their servers can handle only a few active users at a time. Second Life has at most tens of thousands of users online at any point in time, about the same number of users handled by a single (2D) web server. Many websites use hundreds of these servers to handle their traffic demands! That means for Second Life to handle load comparable with a single 2D website (or a single island in their model), they would need to be several hundred times larger, and this doesn’t even begin to address the additional demands required for exchanging 3D assets.

      Second Life could never possibly scale to meet the demands of a real metaverse. Yet they continue to attract big companies using inflated numbers and over-hyped potential (and because frankly, with all its problems, Second Life is still the best thing available). But enough about Second Life. The same things can be said of pretty much any 3D web platform company trying to lock-in customers to their proprietary systems. Despite that IAVRT is a “not-for-profit” organization, and the Neuronet’s lack of technical feasibility (among other things) does make it “smell” like a scam, I would be inclined to group IAVRT into this camp.

      One thing I do agree with the IAVRT on is that there is a need to establish open protocols to build a shared platform for the 3D web. However, I can think of no technical reason this cannot or should not take the form of an extension to the existing Internet. There is no need for a new physical network and no need for a new registry authority. There may be an argument to be made for an organization to rally these efforts. However, I’m more inclined support an extension from an existing reputable organization like the Web3D Consortium.

      Nowadays, rallying also does not necessarily require money. It can be performed using just a community portal website. I’ve recently assembled a portal just for this purpose at and I’d like to invite anyone interested to come participate. And don’t worry, there are no membership fees involved <g>.

      12/31/2006 | 4:24 pm

      @Michael – I’d say the difference between something like Second Life and IAVRT is pretty simple: there’s a real person behind LL/SL irrespective of the technology. I don’t know that there are any “real” people behind IAVRT. For all I know, every name we’ve unearthed is entirely fictional. As some others have said, it could be an ARG.

      Anyway, best of luck with your site. I’ll have to stop by.

      12/31/2006 | 5:56 pm

      True, and Second Life has something real, working today. To be clear, I have a great deal of respect both for the people at Second Life and what they have accomplished. It is an excellent example of things to come, and thereby also an easy scapegoat. My intent was mainly to illustrate certain similarities between IAVRT and other, arguably more reputable, projects aiming to create a ubiquitous 3D web platform. Taking all the evidence into account, there is no doubt that Neuronet is likely a scam. I certainly would not put money into it. But rather than having an intent to defraud people, this could also be a group of perhaps naive individuals with grand ambitions.

      12/31/2006 | 6:14 pm

      @Michael who said: “this could also be a group of perhaps naive individuals with grand ambitions.

      I was thinking the same thing earlier. I’m not considering that to be very likely at this point.

      1/1/2007 | 12:57 pm


      Thanks for the expansion on “international” not-for-profits. Following your hint, I also found lots of groups designating themselves as such. What it actually means, as you point out, isn’t always clear. I guess sometimes it means an organization that receives money from multiple countries, while at other times it means an organization that is based in one country but works internationally. With anything involving the internet, though, I don’t see how an organization could keep from being international in this second sense.

      1/1/2007 | 1:34 pm

      Agree. The minute it’s an internet-based business it does seem to be “international” by default.

      1/1/2007 | 3:29 pm

      Mmm, looks like they may have meant to deploy this earlier… or just made a typo. Either way, I found something under their “Domain Names” section that’s pretty strong evidence of them being unprofessional, in my opinion:

      “The list of Premium Names will be made available by January 31, 2006.”

      I think that date already passed by… meh, I thought it was interesting.

      1/1/2007 | 3:30 pm

      […] Read – International Association of Virtual Reality TechnologiesRead – reBang, “Is Neuronet a Scam?”Read – CNET, “Virtual reality to get its own network?” […]

      1/2/2007 | 1:21 am

      too much of a coincidence. Christopher Carter = X files = Scully = Vancouver production location. Totally obvious.

      1/2/2007 | 12:29 pm

      @Chris – funny thing, I’ve been seeing pics of “Dana Scully” all over lately.

      1/3/2007 | 8:55 pm

      Here’s the address GoogleMapped:,++Vancouver,+BC,+V6B+2E2&ie=UTF8&z=18&ll=49.276061,-123.11864&spn=0.002418,0.006545&t=h&om=1

      It’s certainly in downtown, but looks more like a residential-type section. Maybe. Any Vancouverites that can verify?

      With the Lion’s Gate Film connection, I wonder if this is some sort of viral marketing for a movie, a la Blair Witch or the Lacuna website for The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

      1/3/2007 | 9:07 pm

      Nope, a third look… this smells so scammy that regular scams would come out and complain how much of a scam this is.

      1/3/2007 | 9:14 pm

      Yep. Saw it. At first I thought it was a parking lot until I looked at the shadows. The jagged building looks residential maybe. The big flat thing looks converted to me.

      Only it’s not necessarily a legit connection. Lion’s Gate Films is not afaik Lions Gate Studios. It appears to me to be a deliberate attempt to confuse the two for the wrong reasons.

      1/3/2007 | 9:18 pm

      I’m just curious to see where this is in two or three weeks. We’ll see.

      1/3/2007 | 9:25 pm

      Microsoft successfully sued a Canadian “Mike Roe” who had “” (and even had some basic games up) on that same basis. They settled out of court for an X-Box and a trip to Microsoft HQ + a personal tour. I’d imagine Lion’s Gate Films could easily sue for the same reason.

      Anyway, I did the easiest web-site hack, and found another tidbit. The images are kept, of course, in an /image directory. So type in:
      And you’ll find you can view them as a directory.

      I found some of them were sample images, indicating by their watermark that they were obtained at, most likely for free (as it’s a royalty free site). So these *web innovators* can’t even design their own website.

      This is clearly [“potentially”; see comment below -csven] a “give us some money and we’ll find people to do the work for us” scam. That’s why they [appear to – csven] have the “grants” section, and they could argue that if they got money, gave it to grants people, and took money for their “administrative” costs, that they were legit.

      This is so retarded it’s not even making me chuckle.

      1/3/2007 | 9:28 pm

      For the record Stay Sane Communications and its owners Susan Simmons and Eiler Pedersen are not the International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT).

      In the future, kindly make contact with the people you are making comment about and confirm information rather than post speculative and as csven points out on VR GEEK BLOG about the information posted on this (his) blog, comments that are “especially damning.”

      Stay Sane Communications’ email and telephone number have always been available on our website to those of you making the posts. We encourage you to contact us directly in order to check facts.

      A little courtesy goes a long way.

      1/3/2007 | 9:42 pm

      @Hiro – the istockphoto connection was already made and to be honest, I don’t consider it an issue. Real companies use those services. And real companies even use recycled code. What alarms me most is the language on their site – the “will” this and “will” that which are statements of future certainty but which then are followed by the big disclaimer. I personally consider that very misleading and manipulative. Thus, under the circumstances – including all the things we’ve come across so far – those words stick out like a sore thumb to me and I can’t help but suspect this is a scam. It’s not “clearly” anything; but it’s sufficiently opaque to warrant serious scrutiny imo.

      1/3/2007 | 10:06 pm

      @Susan – I’m glad you’ve stopped in. Why not illuminate this issue a bit.

      For the record Stay Sane Communications and its owners Susan Simmons and Eiler Pedersen are not the International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT).

      For the record, this comment says you “are not” something, but doesn’t say “you are not part” of something. I can imagine you being in a partnership with someone, so instead of making that statement, how about explaining your relationship in more definitive terms.

      In the future, kindly make contact with the people you are making comment about and confirm information rather than post speculative

      I can’t speak for people who’s comments I’ve refuted (effectively defending you on those occasions), but as to why I didn’t call: I don’t believe it’s my responsibility to do what neither you, your client (IAVRT?) nor media companies like C|Net bothered to do: gather and disseminate sufficient information for people like me – the one’s to whom this service is supposedly selling – to make informed decisions about IAVRT.

      and as csven points out on VR GEEK BLOG about the information posted on this (his) blog, comments that are “especially damning.”

      “Damning” is not “illegal”. Some people have, I’ll agree made overreaching declarative statements (just like on the IAVRT website), but I don’t recall any of those as being the “damning” ones.

      Stay Sane Communications’ email and telephone number have always been available on our website to those of you making the posts. We encourage you to contact us directly in order to check facts.

      While true, may I both refer you to my earlier comment regarding responsibilities going where they belong and also ask if you’ve posted this same outreach over on Slashdot? I’ll have to check. They’ve certainly not been restrained in their comments and I don’t recall anyone reining them in as I’ve done here.

      A little courtesy goes a long way.

      If courtesy is what you and your clients are all about, then I assume I was correct in believing that the email threat I received came from an imposter. ;)

      1/5/2007 | 11:33 am

      Still amusing after all this time…

      1/5/2007 | 11:48 am

      @Baba – I was thinking last night about Pederson and his link to CathayOnline. I bet that’s worth some inquiry. On the one hand, he might have been legitimately involved in the first two weeks of the company when it first formed (maybe called “Via Technology” at the time) and then left. Or, and this got me really thinking, he *might* have copied a newswire, modified it and then resubmitted it somehow (I don’t know how that thing works, tbh). Imagine sneaking in a resume-building qualification like that. If done quickly enough, it’d escape the notice of the company originating the press release.

      By the way, check comments on the other Neuronet post here. Cline is a curious one too. Looks to me like he or someone he knows snuck him into Wikipedia.

      1/7/2007 | 7:12 pm

      This post is now collecting nothing but spam. Time to shut it down. Feel free to post (for the time being at least) on the Scully(?) response thread – reLink.

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