Internet shopping may be nothing new, but a group is aiming to take it further by recreating the genuine shopping experience in a virtual world. They have made a 3D replica of London's famous Oxford Street. The idea is that you will be able to wander into HMV, McDonalds, and so on. If you want you can go shopping along with a group of your online friends.
Of course it wouldn't be the same without the good old British weather, so the system will use reports from the Met Office to determine whether or not the virtual world is wet, windy, or whatever.
From what I could tell from the report on SKAI News last night, they seem to be missing a few important details, which I hope will appear in the finished version:
Crime - Although to be fair, the internet is probably dangerous enough, Oxford Street would not be the same without people trying to steal handbags, and police trying to catch them. Perhaps those of us who aren't so keen on the shops could play at vritual Cops and Robbers?
Buskers - If you've always believed that you can sing and/or play an instrument worse than the buskers, here's the opportunity to prove it. It's not so cruel as in real life - at least virtual shoppers have a mute button.
Sales and Survey "Muggers" - A lot of web sites already have pop up boxes that ask you to take surveys, or click to see their crap product, and the Virtual Oxford Street may well be no exception, but I hope that their version of this jumps out at you and then makes a snide remark when you walk straight past.
Couriers - I didn't notice a lot of traffic in the screen shots - just the odd London Bus. However, it wouldn't be London without insane nutters on various two wheeled vehicles doing their best to wipe out pedestrians and themselves.
Crowds - I hope that all of the other virtual shoppers are visible and get in the way, let their riotous children trip you up, etc. Most people who go to places like Oxford Street must be masochists, so it's important to keep their stress levels high.
In fact, I really don't think they're going far enough by just replicating Oxford Street. The main problem with London is that far too many people are crowded into the South East of England with not enough space or water, with hellish daily commutes and stupid property prices. If they virtualise the whole thing, then the population could be spread around the country. And they wouldn't need to build more airports, since tourists could visit Trafalgar Square from their armchairs.
Not to mention a Virtual Olympics. However, there are some things which the virtualisers would be better advised to leave out:
Oxford Street, 2008 [Source]