We’re seeing interest from the US government in virtual worlds. You can take a look at a recent Metanomics interview with Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds conference leader Dr. Paulette Robinson.
If you like to tinker and program in virtual worlds, perhaps you might like trying for the $25,000 (or other) prizes. The US Army Research Laboratory Simulation and Training Center would logically have an interest in virtual worlds. This year, their challenge is theme is Artificial Intelligence (AI). At their challenge website, They say “examples may include adaptive learning system, intelligent conversational bots, adaptive behavior (objects or processes)..” They also provide more “hints” that they are looking for applications that demonstrate transparency, ease of use, depth and breadth, implementation complexity, and creativity.