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The BBC's Tom Heap
"Your cyber-self will soon be free to talk, play games and go shopping"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 11:02 GMT
Creating your cyber-self
cyber man
Your virtual double can be created from just two photos
By science correspondent Tom Heap

Ever wanted to put yourself in a computer game, or try on the clothes when you are internet shopping? Well soon, you will be able to do just this sort of thing.

It is now possible to put a 3D image of your face and head on your computer, and from next year that image will allow you to drive in a rallying game, fight your best friend in a virtual wrestling ring and try on glasses at an online optician.

wrestling compter game
Virtual technology will allow you to enter the ring
It is what the computer world is calling personalisation, and Kristan Reed from Computer Trade Weekly believes it will re-invigorate certain businesses.

"I think it'll really capture people's imagination," he said.

"The sort of time frame we're looking at is a year to 18 months, when you'll be seeing it in games, in consoles in PCs, even on your mobile phone, where you can be having a conversation with somebody and actually see the person you're talking to."

A number of companies are working on 3D technology. Avatar-me has several hi-tech booths around the UK where you can walk in and have your whole body scanned.

Another firm, Digimask, has a system which is free and cunningly low-tech. All you will need to do is e-mail them two photos.

Virtual aisles

From the pictures, Digimask can build up a 3D version of your head, which you can then download on to your home computer.

Deals have already been signed with games makers. Next year, you will be able to drive world championship rally cars and score a hat-trick against Manchester United. You will even be able to bring friends - or enemies - into the same game.

Trevor Homer
Trevor Homer: Boost for business
Online retailers are also keen to get visible shoppers into their virtual aisles. The first to sign up has been the internet optician Specs-2-Go.

Its chief executive Trevor Homer thinks it will be vital to his business.

"What will really enliven it will be the ability to put a pair of spectacles on your own face online and to be able to see a 3D image of yourself with the spectacles you chose," he said.

The virtual head can also speak with pretty good lipsync.

So it could introduce your e-mails or even appear on the screen of the person you are calling on the mobile.

Digimask's Tony Pearce believes avatars will mark the end for the faceless and impersonal computer world.

Cyber fantasies

"We've developed a system which can personalise you into any 3D environment," he said.

"And those environments can be anything from video games to the internet, to mobile communication or even interactive TV.

cyber kiss
Getting up close and personal with your virtual self
"We are giving you the option to have a digital image of yourself to use all these different products."

But first, the application allows your cyber-self a freedom well beyond your physical body - a chance to kiss your pop star heartthrob, assuming that your favourite is in either Westlife or SClub7. The two groups have had their heads scanned.

If you go along to Pop 2000 in Birmingham this weekend, your digital lips can plant a smacker on your chosen singer.

Why do I have this feeling the cyber-me might be having more fun than the real thing?

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See also:

06 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Meet your virtual double
25 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Virtual pop star's chart bid
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