Computer games software will enable Microsoft boss Bill Gates to make a virtual visit to Cambridge University's new computer laboratory before the first turf is cut, writes Steve Farrar.
The billionaire will wander around an accurate representation of the building in which his foundation has invested more than Pounds 12 million. He will be joined by architect Geoff Cohen and the Cambridge researchers who helped develop the system. They will be linked to the simulation via the internet.
Experts in the university's Martin Centre, which specialises in architectural research, have adapted software from the violent computer game Quake to create interactive models of buildings that are still at the planning stage.
The new laboratory will be built alongside Microsoft's own and the tour will be the first trial of the new system.
Paul Richens, director of the Martin Centre and developer of the software with colleague Michael Trinder, said: "The computer laboratory people wanted to get an idea of what their building would be like and the games software was perfect for this."
Quake's monsters and explosives have been stripped out so Mr Gates and the scientists will see and hear only graphic representations of each other among the trappings of a new laboratory.
Dr Richens admitted there was a version that enabled viewers to shoot each other while running around their future workplace. "Maybe it will be a stress release for people in the laboratory to shoot up Bill Gates," he said.