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The program's innovation takes advantage of techniques, such as full collision detection, that lend realism to video games. The software, Walkinside, from VRcontext is designed to quickly convert complex industrial projects such as nuclear plants or offshore platforms into virtual worlds.

Users can see the model through the "eyes" of a virtual human character who is aware of obstacles and their size and can navigate through the structure as if walking like a human being, rather than viewing it from preset vantage points or flying through it like a ghost. When the virtual visitor climbs stairs and ladders and negotiates passages through a model of solid objects, the full collision detection feature makes clearance problems obvious.

A fully functional free demo can be downloaded at www.walkinside.com.

The software's converter is integrated with Bentley's Microstation TriForma products. Peter Vorhoeven, CAD System manager at BASF Antwerpen, reports that Walkinside's collision detection and ease of use set it apart from other virtual reality viewers. The program will run on standard PCs or notebooks and is being offered with a graphics card for $4,740.

aking a cue from video games, a Brussels-based company has developed a visualization and simulation tool that lets users stroll about virtual worlds developed from 3D models.