Cruising the electronic highway: How the electronics revolution could change your life.

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada–Have you ever wished you could stand under the basket while Shaquille O’Neil does one of his monster dunks? Or hunch over the plate while Roger Clemens hurls a 100-mile-an-hour fast-ball? Or jump around the ring while George Foreman throws a left hook right at your face?

If you have, you’re in luck. Soon, due to the magic of computers, virtual-reality games will bring these experiences and much, much more right into your home. Virtual reality is a make-believe computer world so seemingly real that it fools the mind and body. You feel as if you’re right in the center of the action. Until now, virtual reality has been confined to special game centers. Now it’s ready to invade your home.

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Home virtual-reality games were the stars at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 8 to 10. More than 2,000 electronics companies from all over the world demonstrated more than 40,000 new products to more than 100,000 visitors. Here are some of the most dazzling new gadgets.

* I-Glasses! Made by a company called Virtual i/0, these lightweight eyeglasses can be plugged into a computer or TV to create the visual effect of standing before a theater-sized 3-D screen. They will be able to transport wearers into a 3-D world that comes alive. Plugged into a TV, i-glasses! transport you right into the middle of the action.

* Virtual Boy. Virtual Boy, by Nintendo, is the first self-contained home virtual-reality game machine. Just place your face against the goggle-like machine, and each eye sees individual screens that, combined, give a 3-D effect.

* Sony Playstation. The Sony Playstation also has 3-D features that let players view dinosaurs as lifelike as those in Jurassic Park, race electronic cars that look and feel like the real thing, and fight martial arts opponents from all sides, not just from the front.

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Info Highway

A large part of the Consumer Electronics Show was devoted to demonstrating improvements in the electronic information highway–the huge and growing network of linked computers all over the world. Many companies introduced new systems that link up computer, television, and telephone lines more effectively to give more people access to the highway. Through those systems, you will not only be able to view all the latest TV shows (on as many as 500 channels!) anytime you want but will also be able to interact with your TV in a number of new ways.

* On-Line Info. You’ll be able to call up any magazine, newspaper or book from a huge electronic library and turn the pages electronically.

* Home Shopping. Using virtual reality, you’ll be able to travel to a shopping mall electronically, view the items, and pay for them–all without leaving your living room!

* Video Games. You’ll be able to play virtual-reality games with people over long distances. Imagine challenging someone 1,000 miles away to a duel with space lasers in 3-D! Video games over long-distance will be ready this year, say manufacturers, although they won’t yet be in virtual reality.

By the year 2000, say experts, the information highway will have developed to a point where it can allow virtual reality travel all over the world. You will be able to go shopping in Paris, play a video game with someone in Moscow, or watch the latest movie from Australian TV.

The brave new world of the electronic highway is just around the corner. Are you ready for it?

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Are there any negative aspects to having an unlimited video universe at your fingertips? Would people be tempted to stay in their electronic “cocoon” and not go outside to experience the real world? Can people escape the real world? Should they want to escape the real world?

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