Hi-tech displays leave a lot of space to fill

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The Independent Online
THE DOME might be one of the architectural wonders of the late twentieth century, but filling the largest building of its kind in the world in the digital age is a difficult task.

The danger is that the amount of information that can be conveyed via the Internet, and using virtual reality and interactive games, will replace a lot of props and leave a lot of empty space. To compensate for the blandness of multimedia, designers will pack in overscaled human figures, floating beds for dreamscapes and gigantic roller-coaster rides.

The Teflon-coated dome drops into place in a fortnight to cover 20 acres on the North Greenwich Peninsula. So the countdown has started to filling it with a display sufficiently thrilling to entice people from all over Britain to visit.

Visible within domed area, 320 metres in diameter, are nine segments These segments have been zoned to tell the story of time with interactive displays and exhibits chosen by 11 design teams.

When you can land a jumbo jet just by strapping on a virtual reality helmet and taking the controls, there is no need for a lot of props. There is little need for the plinths and display cabinets found in traditional museums and galleries.

At its centre, the Dome is 50 metres high, as tall as Nelson's Column. This is the "Body Zone". Here reclines an androgynous figure, 23 metres tall which is entered through its waist, for an exploration of its internal organs, and exited through the heel.

In the Environment Zone, beaches and piers tempt families for an virtual outing to contrast with the Learning and Work Zones. Four hundred virtual reality helmets in the Work Zone allow visitors to record their hopes and fears about their jobs.

The Learning Curve lets visitors surf the Internet. The Serious Play Zone will deliver sport and leisure activities on a moving pavement.

Groovy little curved pods replace the creche with a floater-coaster ride in a bed with 15 other kids to give parents time to unwind.

The Spirit Level, as the New Millennium Experience calls the spiritual area, is currently without a sponsor, or indeed a theme. But the Lambeth Group, a multi-faith advisory body, is in consultation with New Millennium Experience team on the contents.