Virtual guide to London

December 24, 1999

One of the most advanced virtual reality simulators ever created, which allows a visitor to explore a three-dimensional, populated, computerised recreation of London, has been unveiled by scientists.

The London Travel Demonstrator allows a visitor to plot routes through a 16km by 10km area of the capital, walk past recognisable buildings and even explore individual rooms in certain targeted areas. It also allows them to interact and talk with other visitors.

By giving the user an accurate picture of what it is like to actually travel through the streets, complete with virtual crowds, its creators said it would give a much better sense of the spatial layout of a city than referring to maps and reference books.

However, the virtual city, which was shown at the International Conference on Virtual Reality Software and Technology at University College London this week, is a mere demonstration of the powerful virtual reality system behind it.

The Coven platform, created by a five-year collaboration of computer experts from the University of Lancaster, University College London and the Swedish Institute of Computer Science, could be put to many uses from games

to emergency planning.

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