Web Sites

Touring the Net for cityscapes, cyberpets and catalogues of rock
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Ancient Scotland Tour

http://www.stonepages.com/ stones/tour/

Scottish prehistory, Italian-style, is the intriguing mix on offer here from the journalists Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi, who have just completed a 12,000km grand tour of ancient ceremonial sites. Sponsored by the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network, with an educational CD-rom in mind, the duo spent two months amassing photos and Quicktime panoramas of hundreds of stone circles, barrows, cairns and burial chambers, from the mysterious telephone-dial carvings of Argyll to the evocatively named Hetty Pegler's Tump. After a while, one standing stone looks very much like another, though one of the images managed to make it on to the cover of the latest Van Morrison CD. It's an exhaustive catalogue, and the team went home last week with a valedictory flourish: "Thanks and goodbye forever, brave wellies that trampled on tons of sheep droppings!"



This rather less demanding expedition still requires a pre-stroll download of Surround Video Active X or its equivalent. After that, large areas of Central London (and soon New York and Paris) are available for casual sauntering by means of interactive maps leading to "immersive" panoramas. The images are quick to download and navigate - though there's no zoom facility, and, of course, you have to beam back up to get between, say, Bloomsbury and Tottenham Court Road viewpoints. The Dublin-based company calls the site a resource for both intending and nostalgic travellers, and promises high-resolution webcams and streaming audio when bandwidth allows. The three-stage loading of the panoramas creates some interesting abstract cityscapes and, as ever, an unsteady hand on the mouse turns a genteel stroll into a drunken lurch.

The Dogs Home, Battersea

http://www.dogshome.org/ home.html

This week's dog story could also be a cat story: the redesigned site for the famous animal shelter offers portraits and profiles of long-term tenants of both species, desperate for more permanent accommodation. Bobby and Bruce, Greta and Sylvester give frank self-appraisals - "highly trained animal psychologists" have put them in touch with their feelings, assessing their natures according to nine criteria. "I'm told I need to learn to respect other dogs' feelings and I've forgotten all my training, so I'll need a lot of reminding. Choose me if you are determined and patient so I could prove to you what a good dog I could be," pleads Louise, a Staffordshire terrier. There's an unbelievable Shockwave game called "Poopa-Scoopa", and, for a donation of only pounds 15, a chance for your pet to have its own website and accompanying URL for its collar.



The Web version of the new MTV channel launches today, with leading popular musicians talking frankly about their plans for the millennium. Asian Dub Foundation plans to apply gelignite to the Dome, while the Fun Loving Criminals will evade the apocalypse with the help of some choice "herb", and Arab Strap seem to be settling for a quiet night in. As if these revelations weren't enough, there's a continuous 24-hour video stream of mainly live band footage, with plans for more adventurous material once modem speeds catch up with the frantic pace of the more "creative" promos. Viewers can select their own personalised playlist from a list of 1,500 video clips, for subsequent transmission. Later, they will be able to add their own webcam input to the mix. The lack of presenters and commercials is intended to create a cutting-edge, trans-European feel, and the site will complement the satellite version of M2, available in a few months' time.

Multipath Movies


The "interactive feature film" has been the aim of various short-lived experiments over the years, but the producers of this US venture are emphatic that this is not another game but rather an authentic movie experience employing video game techniques. Casts already lined up include Xena - Warrior Princess, Popeye and Ace Ventura - but in computer-animated form. Distributed from a special CD on a pay-per-view basis, the stories unravel in a seamless flow, as in a film. However, they can be customised in response to prompts from the viewer, which could be decisions about a character's mood as well as choices of action. Half an hour of viewing time involves producing over three hours of possible narrative outcomes. There is further explanation - but not, alas, an actual demo - at this site from the system's creators, Brilliant Digital Entertainment. The reality of it all sounds pretty basic: "Click on the icon to control Cyberswine's actions."

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