In a move aimed at adding value to its service, the Auckland-based Voyager New Zealand ISP has formed a "strategic partnership" with Worlds Inc, the acknowledged leader in Internet Virtual Reality.
As part of the agreement, Voyager will distribute demonstration copies of Worlds Chat to Internet users throughout New Zealand. Worlds Chat is the most popular of the new wave of chat services. It offers a 3D virtual space within which users can interact with one another through online personifications, or "avatars".
The company has also recently launched AlphaWorld, a Web-based "virtual society" where users can stake out land and build their own dwellings. In the real world, Worlds has also recently established partnerships in Japan, Australia, Italy and Hong Kong.
Next month Voyager will make available for download a specially customised Worlds Chat demo version from a New Zealand ftp site. This will be followed by distribution of Internet starter kits on CD-ROM to subscribers and potential customers at no charge. The CD will also include the Worlds Chat demo version, Microsoft Internet Explorer, an Internet tutorial called Voyager Internet Wizard and other software packages.
Users will have the option of upgrading from the demo version to Worlds Chat 1.0 Gold, an enhanced version offering more virtual worlds and avatar galleries, unlimited simultaneous users and advanced administrative features.
"Worlds Chat is a very exciting concept and without doubt the best product in its category. We hope to attract a new group of mainstream users to the Internet, particularly those interested in developing a sense of community with other cyber travellers," says John O'Hara, managing director of Voyager. "We see Worlds Chat as an important driver of usage of our system and hope to emulate America On-Line where a reported 30% of usage is chat."