Leading article: Adventures in virtual reality

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DEAD REALISTIC, some of these new computer games. As we report today, doctors have been treating young men who have got so carried away playing arcade soccer games where they kick a virtual football that they have broken ankles and toes falling off the platform or kicking bits of (real) equipment.

It is all too plausible. Modern computer graphics are so good, it is easy to imagine breaking wrists and other bones just shooting down Klingons or struggling to keep a monster truck on the virtual road.

Already, computer games now come with things called rumble pads which jolt and shake the controls while the spaceship, Formula One car or "podracer" is steered around death-defying obstacles.

Next will be rumble chairs to throw you about violently when attempting too sharp a turn on screen, and pellet guns bolted to the side of the computer to provide a realistic hail of enemy fire.

For those who use their computers for more sedate pursuits, there are other virtual environments that can be conjured up. If you work from home you can choose to have the background chatter and ringing phones of an open-plan office piped through your speakers.

The next innovation will be virtual colleagues who will loom out of the screen with stories about their holidays, scandalous office gossip and questions about what you saw on television last night.

Welcome to virtual reality.