VIRTUAL THRILLS IN ONLINE ADVENTURE
ALTHOUGH next year's World Expo is sure to be a feast for visitors with the world's leading technology and many innovative pavilions, walking across the mammoth 5.28-square-kilometer Expo site will still be a tiring experience.
But then imagine this: Click the mouse on your computer at home and then tour around the Expo site and watch almost all the pavilions and exhibits online.
Expo Shanghai Online was officially launched last Thursday, allowing users to enjoy the 2010 event through the Internet.
Users can savor a cup of coffee while "running" between and among pavilions. They can see pictures and descriptions of more than 200 pavilions at the Expo and many of the exhibits inside. They can also enter all the pavilions and chat with other users.
If they need to go out for a while, they can halt the tour and restart at any other time they like.
Moreover, all of this is free.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan launched the Chinese-language version of the site - www.expo.cn. The English version will be launched at the beginning of next year.
The theme of the Expo Shanghai is "Better City, Better Life."
Expo Online is a "very good initiative" that can promote the Shanghai event worldwide, says Jean-Pierre Lafon, president of the International Expositions Bureau.
Users will firstly have a bird's eye view over the Expo site when they log onto the Website, with all the pavilions laid out as they are in the real site.
Users can click on pavilions to have a close look. They can watch the pavilion from different angles. They can also "stand" in front of the pavilion and have a 360-degree view around.
All the pavilions and the whole Expo site have daytime and nighttime views. Pavilions at night will be covered by colorful lights.
Users can virtually tour about 50 pavilions at the moment, including the five theme pavilions, where the organizer will elaborate on the "Better City, Better Life" Expo theme.
Other pavilions will be opened gradually on the Website according to construction progress at the Expo site, says Zhu Yonglei, deputy director general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination. The organizer will update the Website every two weeks.
A highlight of the Expo Online will be the "Future City" section, which will be similar to online role-playing games. Visitors can at first create a cartoon character and control the character to tour around the Expo site and visit pavilions.
Apart from the Pudong and Puxi sections of the Expo site, the character can also move onto a virtual island with future urban scenery beside the Expo site. Users can play online games, and some need interaction with other users.
Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan, NBA star Yao Ming and Chinese pianist Lang Lang, the three ambassadors for the World Expo Shanghai, as well as Vicente Loscertales, secretary general of the International Expositions Bureau, will appear on the island to help users finish their game tasks.
Participants will also be able to design some interactive events inside their pavilions. Lucky draws will also be held on the Website.
During the 184-day Expo, visitors can also watch videos of performances at the site.
They can also ask Haibao, the mascot for the 2010 event, to be a tour guide on the virtual trip.
Expo Online will have many three-dimensional "experiencing pavilions." They are being designed by participants to be interactive.
Expo Online aims to help those who cannot physically visit Expo Shanghai to have a virtual tour from their homes. But those who visit the event can also have some fun on the Website, with quizzes, games and gifts.
Visitors can also communicate with others in an online community to share their experiences and provide tips for other Expo Online users as well as publicize their photos and videos. The Website will be available after the 2010 event, making it an "Expo that never dies."
The 2010 event expects 70 million visitors from both home and abroad. The online showcase will attract more, says Zhu Yonglei, deputy director of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination.
China Telecom has allocated more than 20 gigabyte of bandwidth for the online showcase, says Yang Xiaowei, deputy director of the China Telecom, one of the operators of Expo Online. Main sections of Expo Online Expo Carnival
This section will feature many little online games, including "Expo RichMan." This game is similar to other RichMan games, but players will compete with Haibao, the mascot of the 2010 event. They'll test their knowledge of many Expo-related questions, such as "When was the first World Expo in America held?"
Expo Ferris Wheel
Many basic Expo facts and figures will be available at the "wheel." Visitors can enter the section to make full preparations for a carnival competition with Haibao.
Each user will have a cartoon character standing in front of the China Pavilion. Each figure can carry tips for visitors, useful information and greetings for a successful Expo. Online community members can also publicize their photos and videos taken at the Expo Site. The organizer will retain the photos and videos on the Website.
This will be one of the highlights of Expo Online. Many characters from Chinese history and legends will be featured as users learn about the fascinating stories and achievements, as well as future plans and new technology. For example, in one level users will be asked to find Hu Yude in the China Pavilion, an Anhui Province businessman of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) who created the famous "Anhui Ink." Players win points when they complete each level. Users have to download software of about 1.5 gigabytes.