Now, A `Space Station' In Your Pc

VIRTUAL REALITY IS COMING to cyberspace. In March, CompuServe Inc. announced plans for new software that lets people in online chat rooms assume an onscreen persona--sort of a cartoon character that represents them. On Apr. 3, Knowledge Adventure Worlds, a San Francisco-based spin-off of multimedia software developer Knowledge Adventure Inc. in La Crescenta, Calif., will try its hand. The company says it will create a virtual world on the Internet where people can gather and chat online. Based on programming techniques used in Knowledge Adventure educational programs such as Space Adventure, Knowledge Adventure Worlds creates a virtual space station inside a personal computer. By moving the mouse or using the cursor keys, computer users get a first-person perspective of moving about the station.

At first, the software and visits to Knowledge Adventure Worlds' Internet computer will be free. The company says it is launching this service as a pilot program for a larger online service called the Interactive World's Fair, which it expects to launch in October. Being developed in conjunction with theme-park creator Landmark Entertainment Group, the online World's Fair will feature virtual pavilions, exhibit halls, and possibly shopping malls. As in a real world's fair, corporations will be there to show off their wares and ideas. But in the virtual fairground, you would jump to the company's page on the Internet's World Wide Web. For now, Internetters will be able to download the free software, explore the space station, and find out more information by visiting Knowledge Adventure Worlds' World Wide Web site at: