The lines to see the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone are a mile long this time of year. No matter: soon you'll get to see the gusher online.
Worlds Inc. is creating a 3D virtual replication of the popular tourist attraction. The "cyber-geyser" is set for release on September 18. It will be used as a prototype for virtual versions at other national parks, including the Grand Canyon and the waterfalls at Yosemite.
"This collaborative project with Worlds will allow us to share the natural beauty of our national parks with a wider audience," said Brand Niemann, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Interior.
Another project being discussed by Worlds and the Department of Interior is the creation of a Web site that puts all the national parks online. That would let people visit the entire park system from their home PCs.
The technology allows visitors to explore the parks' 3D surroundings, chat with rangers, and learn about the parks' plants, animals and geology.
Users can access the virtual Old Faithful on the Net in AlphaWorld, an interactive community available by downloading software from the company's Web site. Once installed, you are launched into AlphaWorld. Then follow the signs to Yellowstone, and remember, no hunting allowed.