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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 10:53 GMT


UK

Wild fantasies a virtual reality

A few quick snaps and the dream world begins

Visitors to the Millennium Dome will be able to transport 3D images of themselves into virtual dream worlds.


The BBC's Sue Nelson takes a look at the Avatar
The system, called an Avatar, builds an animated image from digital photos and allows the subject to enter a fantasy environment.


[ image: Avatar can make you a basketball star]
Avatar can make you a basketball star
It gives those with two left feet or no sense of rhythm the chance to become virtual sporting heroes or dance floor megastars.

The technology is the highlight of the Dome's BT-sponsored Talk Zone, to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Visitors will go into an Avatar Booth, similar to a passport photo booth.

The system takes eight photos of a person, maps the contours of the face and body, and transfers a full-sized, 3D image onto a computer within a few minutes.


[ image: Technology can make you a virtual dancing queen]
Technology can make you a virtual dancing queen
The images imitate facial features, hair, build and height, clothes, textures and colours.

The users can then beam their image into a choice of fantasy environments - such as a night-club, a computer game or sporting event.

The virtual worlds fill the user's entire field of vision within the booth, thus giving a powerful illusion of a real landscape.

Avatar is also being heralded as a help to disabled people as it could enable them to walk and talk in a virtual world.

The journalist John Diamond, who lost his voice through throat cancer, believes Avatar could prove invaluable if connected to a voice synthesiser.


[ image: Disabled people say Avatar can give back
Disabled people say Avatar can give back "a sense of self"
He wrote: "When bits of your body start going wrong your sense of self changes.

"A system like this gives you back your sense of self. It makes you who you were."

There will be three Avatar booths in the Millennium Dome and this is the first time the technology has been made available to the public.

Matt Lawson of BT, the developers of Avatar, told the BBC: "You can become the hero of your own computer game or send your image out shopping on the Internet... it could model the clothes for you".

Visitors to the Dome will be given a download card to download their animated image from the website www.avatarme.co.uk, when it is up and running later in the year.

They would then be able to incorporate it into software on home PCs.



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