California firm projects agencies into 3-D Worlds

Worlds Inc. is helping the U.S. Information Agency and the National Park Service develop on-line 3-D environments designed to make searching for information electronically a little more like visiting a library or touring a park.

Worlds San Francisco specializes in the field of multiuser networked virtual reality. The company produces interactive 3-D virtual environments for consumer and commercial applications. USIA and the National Park Service tapped Worlds to improve the information services available to their employees and the public.

By the end of this year USIA aims to invite its employees to visit the new USIA on-line virtual library which was built in conjunction with Worlds. USIA and Worlds developed a platform for3-D virtual applications that has also been made available to other federal agencies.

On top of that platform Worlds helped USIA develop the virtual library application.Using the mouse as a vehicle patrons to the library will "walk" through the 3-D halls of the new USIA global library which will link 150 on-line library resources around the world to one central on-line facility.

"We're looking to improve our abilities to deliver information around the world to our foreign field posts and our general foreign public " said Tony Jackson director of the Office of Support Services for the Information Bureau of USIA. With the new virtual library "you create a more expressive space for the information itself. The information seeker is guided through in a more friendly way."

Once a patron has reached the front desk of the library he can chat with a librarian "avatar" - an animated figure that has been programmed to answer a range of basic questions. The librarian will point patrons to an on-line hall give advice on searching for resources or direct visitors on how to browse the virtual book stacks.

Dave Gobel chairman and founder of Worlds said his company gives USIA a way to provide patrons with on-line services that have a more personal touch. Three-dimensional avatars he said can offer something that on-line text communication cannot: body language. "When I see body language inside a 3-D world it means something. Body language is a big deal. It's a gestalt of a number of elements " Gobel said.

Finding one's way around an on-line library is a lot easier Gobel said when a librarian can greet you help you find what you need direct you to a hallway to point and click through and tell you what you need to do once you get to the right stack of shelves. "A lot of times people don't know what information they're actually looking for " Gobel added. "Our technology allows you to browse."

The system also allows multiple users to visit the same space and communicate on-line. Each visitor sees the other as an animated "avatar."

Yellowstone to Go On-Line

The National Park Service plans to use Worlds' technology to give patrons a completely new way to watch Old Faithful blow and see some of the sights of Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone National Park on-line site is scheduled to open Sept. 18. The park's application will be built upon the 3-D virtual platform developed at USIA.

"What they envision at the National Park Service is for everyone to have access to the park in some way " said Ty Gaither director of government marketing at Worlds.


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