Plug into hi-tech adventure

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 1996, 12:00am

An exhibit at the Hong Kong Science Museum boasts virtual reality technology which beams computer games into the next century Fancy a flight in space in a parcel-delivering race, or swimming among sharks while hunting for sunken treasure? Games, of course, but unlike any game you have played before.

In these games, on display as part of a new exhibit at the Hong Kong Science Museum, you feel as if you are actually in space or underwater, thanks to the thrilling new technology of virtual reality.

Virtual reality (VR) allows you to view or interact with a simulated three-dimensional world in real time.

The new museum exhibit is the popular Mandala Virtual Reality Module System which consists of a computer, a video camera and a colour monitor.

Visitors enter the module and see themselves appear on a computer screen. As they wave their hands, crouch or sway their bodies they find themselves playing the lead role in a software programme.

There are three exciting scenarios: in Turbo Kourier you float in space in a competition to deliver parcels; in Sharkbait you are looking for sunken treasure in shark-infested seas; and in Virtual Drums you pound out your own percussion concert by hitting drums and bells on the screen.

Here is how it works: a video camera captures your image and inserts it into a computer-generated picture. When the image of your body touches the objects in the picture, the objects respond, according to computer instructions.

More than 30 major museums and science centres throughout the world are equipped with the Mandala module.

In addition to this exhibit, the Hong Kong Science Museum has another virtual reality treat. This involves wearing a piece of equipment on your head that helps you see three-dimensional computer images. In the game you become the pilot of a fighter plane on a dangerous mission. You avoid the enemies along your flight path by manipulating the joystick.

The Hong Kong Science Museum, at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, is open from 1 pm to 9 pm Tuesday to Friday, and from 10 am to 9 pm on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Admission is $25 for adults, and $12.50 for senior citizens, the disabled and full-time students.