Karel Dudesek

Van Gogh TeleVision: "Worlds Within"

For ten years, Van Gogh TeleVision has been researching and developing interactive media. Several prototypes went on air / on-line, among them, the first interactive live-TV programme, "Piazza virtuale," which was broadcast for 100 days and generated more than 110 thousand callers per hour. The latest project, "Worlds Within," demonstrates the future of today's online services and interactive TV-shows as well.

"Worlds Within" is a computer based communication-infrastructure, that was commissioned for the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Each user who enters this 3-dimensional virtual world is visualised, so that s/he can be seen when approached by the other participants. Simultaneously, s/he her/himself can see the architecture of the "Worlds Within," as well as the other users, and s/he is able to navigate within the world.

"Worlds Within" offers full multimedia capabilities: text, sound, graphics, speech and video can be used for a rich and colorful communication. Participants can chat, speak to each other, paint pictures, play music, show video, save documents for other users, send and receive private mail, and participate in games.

"Worlds Within," in the current hard- and software configuration, is capable of handling 1700 users simultaneously. The configuration of this system is scalable and enables it to be upgraded to higher capacities. "Worlds Within" can be accessed with either touchtone phones only, or computers and modems, and via the Internet.

"Worlds Within" is different from every other online service in terms of:
- the 3D environment, that can truly be experienced by every user,
- the graphic representation of the world, as well as the users,
- the possibility for telephone and computer users to get together and communicate with each other,
- being an open system. The user can not only access saved documents, chat or send mail, but can design the world, add new features and facilities, and can actually be a partner in the creation of the "Worlds Within,"
- the "Reality Stage," a platform on which humans can physically enter "Worlds Within" and from where interactive TV-shows can be broadcast.

"Worlds Within" was put on-line on the occasion of the 1996 Olympiad, and thus benefitted from the worldwide publicity.


The Atlanta Module (text by Julian Simon, Vienna)


"Worlds Within" is a multi-user domain maintained by users, who communicate within a graphical 3D-world via textual, acoustical and visual interactions. The users are represented in this world as objects that are able to navigate and interact and that may be assigned individual properties and functionality. The world can thus be described as the dynamic of these interacting individuals.

The communication in "Worlds Within" is game-driven: the players may explore the world, influence and modify it, and may even gain the competence to organise and model it corresponding to their own ideas. The end results of these activities consist in using and extending the communicative and interactive structures of the environment in a meaningful and efficient way. Activities that are successful in this sense can be rewarded by online time and higher competence level.

The purpose of the game is to involve the participants in interesting and challenging situations, to support cooperation between players and to establish threads of communication that lead to evolving social structures among the participants. This is achieved as in real life, in entertaining self-determined occupations, discovering new aspects of the world and better methods, solving problems cooperatively, stabilising higher living-standards and last, but not least, in having fun together.


Logging "Worlds Within": You find yourself in a three-dimensional world and experience yourself floating past peculiar objects that form landscapes and that appear to possess a particular activity or functionality. The streams seem to result from the gravity fields of these objects and landscapes, so - if you do not navigate yourself - you are given a guided tour through the world. Navigation thus influences this floating in the steam, as comparable to controlling a surfboard. Thereby, you may choose other streams or enter the gravity field of an object.

Within the gravity field of an object, you may communicate or interact with this object. Objects may be other users, or relics of former users, which now form the landscape in the world. The object that represents a user consists of simple elements, so that s/he may modify her/his appearance in the world. S/he may also provide her/his screen-object with a particular functionality which may represent properties, senses or abilities the user wishes to have.

The user may create objects and attach them to landscapes by cloning her/himself, or parts thereof. Advanced users are able to use a scripting language in order to generate multi-dimensional, multimedia, animated or reacting objects (mobiles, boots, agents).

Another fundamental behavior of the objects in this world is the aggregation of several objects in higher organisms. This allows participants to specialise on particular tasks and to delegate other tasks to other participants. One may be responsible for navigation, another for acoustical communication, etc. This behavior can be highly efficient, since it optimises the perception, increases operability, precision and the speed of reaction, and extends competence. Such an organism can be seen as a self-organising structure, which has clear advantages in adapting its form, inner logistics and activity dynamically to actual requirements.

It is the task of you players to produce spaces, objects, tools and functionality that can be used and developed further by other participants, and to establish an infrastructure for living and coexisting in this world. You may offer your creations as services to others, or for trade with tools.

This world is also confined with regard to certain resources (net-traffic, computation-time, etc.). Therefore, it is of special value if you not only raise the general living standard of "Worlds Within" by the effect of your interactions and inventions, but if you do it efficiently with respect to finite resources; then you will be rewarded with a long life, all the related privileges - and, of course, fame...

Julean Simon, Vienna (Austria)

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