Media: Virtual reality makes theatre booking just the ticket

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The Independent Online
No more paying through the nose for what turn out to be lousy seats at the theatre. Instead, customers will soon be able to "scout out" venues in advance, roaming through three dimensional virtual reality seating charts to take their pick of the choicest spots.

America's leading ticket ordering service, Ticketmaster, has teamed up with Intel to develop the technology to take the risk out of advance booking. A new online service to be launched next spring will offer buyers "point of view" ordering - a chance to see how close seats are to the stage.

The system will be linked to Ticketmaster's existing Web site, Ticketmaster Online. With over 1.3 million users every month, it is already one of the most frequently hit sites in the US. "The success of Ticketmaster Online, which now sells over $3m worth of tickets per month, inspired the creation of this new service, which will help us meet the growing demand for computer-based ticketing," said Fredric Rosen, president and chief executive officer.

Work is currently under way on producing sophisticated 3D virtual interiors of theatres, concert halls and stadiums around the country. Ticketmaster hopes to co-operate with Intel to create representations of venues the length and breadth of the United States.

In addition to virtual reality graphics, a range of services will be on offer to subscribers, including listings and entertainment news. Everything from Broadway shows to sporting events and rock concerts will be covered, said Ticketmaster.

A Web site for the UK is currently in the pipeline, and the Los Angeles office is co-operating with London staff to develop an Internet ticketing service which will augment the existing call centre by the end of this winter. This follows the successful development of a similar site in Australia earlier this year.