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ABSTRACT

A network server and virtual environment operably supporting a 3D virtual environment made up of
segments controlled by respective control users who may trade control of their portions with one another.
Normal users may access the virtual environment via terminal means and move within the virtual
environment and visit segments which may contain objects as well as links to the internet.

A network server supporting a 3D virtual environment being at least partly tradable between users.

The present invention relates to a computer network, server or group of servers, computer terminal means,
methods for operating the same, computer programs thereof, signals carrying data related to the same,
and 3D virtual environment, for being accessed by users and being adapted to be at least partially traded
between them.

A disadvantage that network environments such as the Internet suffer from is that it is generally not
possible for the normal user viewing one web page, to view material related by context provided
independently from the current web page or site.
Various remedies are available such as links, search engines, and directories. Links are provided on a
web page as a shortcut to another part of the internet which the provider of the web page or site wishes
users to be able to readily view. The web pages of two competing companies are very unlikely to provide
this service, despite the fact that each would want a link on the web page of their competitor directed to
their own web page. In general links will often allow movement around the internet with a fair degree of
ease, but will generally only provide an overview of an interest, subject, issue, topic, or a related group of
the same in a directory. A directory is supplied by an internet portal and contains a compilation of links
arranged by category or other suitable arrangement. The user may often find what they were looking for,
provided that the internet portal provider has compiled the appropriate web address, but too often the
required page has not registered with, or been noticed by the internet portal provider. Additionally with the
increasing commercialisation of the internet portal market, the directory will often feature sponsors to the
detriment of non-paying website owners. Search engines are a more powerful tool for finding relevant web
pages, but the service still suffers in that the results must be compiled or registered. Non-commercial web-
pages and sites are often excluded and again due to increasing commercialisation the search results are
often dominated by the web-pages of paying members.
Yet another disadvantage that network environments such as the internet suffer from is that it is generally
slow and cumbersome to navigate through different areas therein. Usually links can provide a method of
negotiating within an area; search engines provide an indirect route, and even when the location is known
(defined by a string of alphanumeric characters known as a universal resource locator or URL) the
address must then be laboriously typed into the address bar of a browser. Although all commercially
available browsers permit users to store addresses of particular interest for later access via the same
computer, the process of navigating the internet is often frustrating and slow.
The only main solution proposed to improve internet experience is a faster internet connection, but this
fails to address the above identified disadvantages.
It would be beneficial to the user experience and hence the value of such an environment if a user were
able to identify sites related to a currently viewed through a mechanism other than by recommendation of
the owner of the currently viewed site or a third party organisation due to the difficulty of ensuring the
impartiality of such parties.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a three dimensional virtual environment network, server,
method, signal and interface which allows site owners to associate themselves with other sites and to
draw traffic therefrom rather than thereto or only thereto.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a three dimensional virtual network wherein
information and logical objects can be represented in a format where a user can locate a desired logical
object faster than was previously possible.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a virtual network wherein each site may associate
with any desired site in order to receive traffic therefrom.
According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided a server adapted to be remotely accessible via
a computer network, to operably support a virtual environment having three virtual spatial dimensions, and
to permit a plurality of users to access said computer network and said virtual environment using a
respective plurality of computer terminal means by transfer of virtual environment data to respective users,
each of said plurality of computer terminal means being respectively adapted to provide a user interface for
at least one respective user,
said virtual environment being a virtual space comprising a plurality of portions thereof, virtual content
thereof being separately and respectively controllable by each of a plurality of respective control users,
said computer being adapted to permit each of a plurality of control users to at least create or modify at
least virtual structures or images within respectively controlled portions of the virtual environment,
said computer being adapted to at least permit or accept transfer of control of each of said plurality of
portions of the virtual environment by receipt or transfer of control data from at least respectively original
control users,
said computer being adapted to permit said plurality of users to observe the virtual environment from a
respective virtual location and have at least limited control over the respective observing location by
transfer of virtual environment data to respective users and transfer of at least movement or location data
from respective users.
According to a second aspect of the invention there is provided the virtual environment controlled by the
server of the first aspect.
According to a third aspect of the invention there is provided a computer program adapted to control the
server of the first aspect to support the virtual environment of the second aspect.
According to a fourth aspect of the invention there is provided an electronic trading platform adapted to
assist substantially any of trading, renting, leasing and selling of substantially at least one of control or
ownership of portions of the virtual environment of the second aspect.
According to a fifth aspect of the invention there is provided a computer program adapted to control a
server to operably support the electronic trading platform of the fourth aspect.
According to a sixth aspect of the invention there is provided a server operating the computer program of
the fifth aspect.
According to a seventh aspect of the invention there is provided a computer program adapted to control a
computer to access the server of the first aspect and the virtual environment of the second aspect, and to
provide a user interface displaying a graphical representation of said virtual environment.
According to an eight aspect of the invention there is provided at least one computer readable medium
having the computer program of at least one of the third aspect, the fifth aspect and the seventh aspect
encoded therein.
According to a ninth aspect of the invention there is provided at least one data network signal having at
least one of the computer program of at least one of the third aspect, the fifth aspect and the seventh
aspect encoded therein and information or a request for information sent to or from the server of the first
aspect.
According to a general embodiment there is provided a server adapted to be remotely accessible via a
computer network, to operably support a virtual environment having three virtual spatial dimensions, and to
permit a plurality of users to access said computer network and said virtual environment using a
respective plurality of computer terminal means,
each of said plurality of computer terminal means being respectively adapted to provide a user interface for
at least one respective user,
said virtual environment being a virtual space comprising a plurality of portions thereof, virtual content
thereof being separately and respectively controllable by each of a plurality of respective control users,
said computer being adapted to permit each of a plurality of control users to create virtual objects or
images within respectively controlled portions of the virtual environment,
said computer being adapted such that control of each of said plurality of portions thereof may
substantially be at least one of traded, rented, leased and sold by a respectively controlling control user,
said computer being adapted to permit said plurality of users to observe the virtual environment from a
respective virtual location and have at least limited control over the respective observing location.
Accordingly there may be provided a virtual environment having three dimensions and comprising a
plurality of portions, controlled by a server operably supporting a computer program, so as to permit a
plurality of control users to each have control of at least one of said plurality of portions of the virtual
environment, and to substantially at least one of buy, sell, trade, barter, rent, lease, exchange, or re-assign
control of respectively controlled  portions thereof.
Note that the terms “buy, sell, trade, barter, rent, lease, exchange, or re-assign control” and “traded, rented,
leased, and sold” are intended to include moving a controlled portion such as a virtual object, or a region,
to a previously respectively not controlled portion or region, and is intended to encompass all forms of
exchange.
According to any of the embodiments, the computer network and virtual environment may non-exclusively
be adapted to allow multiple control users to each arrange their respectively controlled virtual objects so
as to attract attention from users proximal to related virtual objects.
According to any of the embodiments, the computer network and virtual environment may non-exclusively
be adapted to allow multiple control users to each control portion of the virtual environment. Each
respective control user has control over any virtual objects within the respectively controlled portion. In this
regard a portion may be a virtual object itself.
According to any of the embodiments, the computer network and virtual environment may non-exclusively
be adapted to allow multiple users to interact with one-another at least in the public area, not limited to any
combination of the following manners:
visually displaying a public virtual persona of a respective user at the respective user’s virtual location;
providing audio data to mix with a background audio stream of the public space or a local region, or
providing the audio data at varying levels to multiple background audio streams according to virtual user
proximity to various virtual reference points;
providing geometry and movement data of respective virtual personas;
providing audio data which may be compressed, which may be real-time and which may be one-way, two-
way or may be a multi-user interaction;
providing text data which may be compressed, which may be real-time and which may be one-way, two-
way or may be a multi-user interaction;
providing video data which may be compressed, which may be real-time and which may be one-way, two-
way or may be a multi-user interaction;
providing a logical object which may be compressed;
creating, entering or joining a private ‘room’ which may be a private part of the virtual environment or may
be a connected but separate addition to the virtual environment;
participating in a game which may be by data exchange while in the public space, may be in a non-public
space provided by a control user, may be in a private ‘room’, or may be proximal to and involving a virtual
object within the virtual environment; and
participating in an action game which may involve users virtually shooting at one another and may involve
modification of respective user’s virtual personas to include representations of weapons and the like, and
may involve laws of virtual physics within a non-public space different from those within the public space.
For a better understanding of the invention and to show how the same may be carried into effect, reference
will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings, in which:
Figure 1 is a diagram of a computer network according to an embodiment of the invention;
Figure 2 is a diagram of a computer network according to another embodiment of the invention;
Figure 3 is a flow diagram illustrating a method of operating a computer network server or computer
network according to one embodiment of the invention;
Figure 4 is a flow diagram illustrating some of the more basic parts of a method of operating a computer
network server or computer network according to one embodiment of the invention; and
Figure 5 is a flow diagram illustrating a method of operating a terminal according to one embodiment of
the invention.
In the following description, various aspects of the present invention will be described. For purposes of
explanation, specific configurations and details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding
of the present invention. However, it will also be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention
may be practiced without the specific details. Furthermore, well known features may be omitted or
simplified in order not to obscure the present invention.
A three dimensional virtual environment supported by a server and computer program may be provided for
control by control users. A plurality of control users may each control a respective portion or respective
portions of the virtual environment. Each may engage in trade of control of portions of the virtual
environment. Such trade may be according to trading rules.
According to one embodiment trade by a control user may include trade with another or other users directly.
According to another non exclusive embodiment trade by a control user may include trade with another or
other users via substantially a trading platform.
According to another non exclusive embodiment trade by a control user may include trade with a higher
level control entity.
According to another non exclusive embodiment trade by a control user may be instigated by indicating at
least a direction of preferred movement of a controlled portion. In such an embodiment a higher level
control entity may organise substantial optimization of preferred movement of respectively controlled
portions by each of a plurality or control users.
According to a non exclusive embodiment trade may be a non-discrete process whereby respectively
controlled portions of respective control users may move past one another according to substantial
optimization of preferred movement of respectively controlled portions in a virtual fluid manner.
Such implementations may be put into effect to enable multiple control users to engage in optimising their
respective incoming user traffic as they each see fit.
Sophisticated algorithms may be put into effect to enable such trade and potentially such fluid trade so as
to accommodate a preferred shape or current contents of each portion.
According to any of the embodiments the portions may be generally defined as a vertical extension of a
portion of land space. Such portions may have equal fixed heights or varied and fixed heights or variable
heights.
According to a standard embodiment there may be a cuboid virtual space having a square 'land' surface,
portions of the land surface being divided up, and portions of the virtual environment being formed of
vertical extensions of portions of land surface. In general the portions are rectangular and are set such that
each has at least one side that is not against a neighbouring portion. Instead there is provided an
arrangement of free space which may be in the form of a network or grid structure or may be reminiscent of
a transport network. Most or all portions are provided against some free space on at least one land
boundary or side.
As such portions are allocated by a higher control level entity to control users. Such users may purchase
such control or allocation may be by any other method. In the dynamic environment provided by observing
users and the changing priorities of control users there will be an incentive for each control user to identify
positions of interest or greater interest and to trade so as to obtain control of preferred portions or
perceived ideal positions.
As such there is a system which naturally generates an optimization of resources.
As such there is a system which provides an observing user to identify items of interest by an unbiased
process.
A three dimensional virtual environment network, method, signal and interface is provided with a hierarchy
of control, which allows a normal user to experience the three dimensional virtual environment and
potentially also other users, particularly those active in the same location in the environment, and
particularly at a proximal location. Interaction need not be limited to environment proximity, but in some
circumstances the user may automatically be in visual contact with users proximate in the virtual
environment.
At a higher level in the hierarchy of control, control users may be able to control a surface, volume or region
so as to display information such as a link to a web page, or an advertisement. At a yet higher level in the
hierarchy of control a higher level user may create a virtual external space which users may travel virtually
to and from. The higher level user may have any combination of control of the features of the space not
limited to the size, dimensionality, contents, rules of user interaction, rules of user conduct, and rules of
virtual physics. An external space may for example be accessed via a two or three dimensional portal in a
three dimensional virtual environment, or may be accessed from any part of the environment or other
external space by a command from the respective user.
When a plurality of control users provide a plurality of control surfaces relating to interests, areas of
commerce, services, or information, the users may be allocated by a higher level in the control hierarchy
the option of relocating their control area according to predetermined rules. An example of such a rule
would be unlimited access to any otherwise unused space, another example would be access to virtual
space on the basis of prior use of the users space by other users, and the demand for the virtual space in
question. The virtual environment may be adapted to seamlessly warp, or stretch so as to allow new
control spaces to be inserted between spaces previously in contact. Alternatively a higher level in the
control hierarchy may determine that the spaces controlled by users lower in the control hierarchy should
move so as to allow new user’s access to the virtual neighbourhood.
It is generally necessary to provide a high level of geometric data compression, sound compression and
or image compression in a large such network so as to permit real-time interaction between a large
number of users, and permit users to download new environment information as they move within the
environment.
Sound compression is particularly important when normal users provide and receive sound information
from users they choose to engage in audio interaction with, or from users on the basis of virtual proximity.
Image compression is particularly important when a user enters a new area of the environment, or an area
which a user has not been active in for some time. Many or most of the surfaces and volumes in the
environment are likely to show a combination of text, images, moving images, and 3 dimensional images,
according to the choice of the user in control of the respective surface or volume. A substantial proportion
of the images and so forth are liable to be repeated many times around the environment and so the image
compression system used should avoid the need to download an image multiple times. Examples of this
would include advertisements, standard decoratory textures for walls and other surfaces, and information
relating to the colour and texture of the virtual personas used by users, or any image provided or created by
one user and copied by many due to any reason.
Geometry data compression is also particularly important when a user enters a new area of the
environment, or an area which a user has not been active in for some time. Some structures in the
environment may be repeated throughout the environment many times. Examples may include standard
decoratory objects for internal rooms, common objects found in roads, or any object created by one user
and copied by many due to aesthetic appeal or any other reason.
The network may use but is not limited to four main types of information flow:
firstly upward index information from users to a server, group of servers, or most convenient server
regarding the Geometry, Image and Object (GIO) information that the user has access to, and or whether
such GIO information has been deleted since the last time the user (i.e. the user’s computer – a
distinction which is important if multiple users use a computer and said computer is allowed to pool the
information gained from multiple users excursions into the environment) accessed the environment.
In the case that the server(s) keep a full record of the GIO information sent to or received by the user, such
index information may be provided simply by identifying the periods of time from which the user (or user’s
computer) has appropriate records. In the case where the server(s) keep a basic record of the degree of
GIO detail that a user (or user’s computer) has of each region of the environment, and the time at which
the respective GIO details were provided or obtained, then such index information may be provided on the
basis that the server(s) infer the GIO information that the user will require. In this (as in the next) case, the
user may frequently request particular details of information, although such frequent information requests
are in no way limited to this case.
In the case that the server(s) do not store sufficiently useful information regarding the degree of GIO detail
a user has of each part of the environment, the server(s) will either provide appropriate GIO information as
and when requested by a user, or receive information requests from a user as and when appropriate,
along with information relating to the location (and perhaps of course motion) of the user in the
environment (Activity (A) information).
In general, in either of the cases where the server(s) do not store sufficiently useful information regarding
to the GIO information provided to or received by a user (or computer), such GIO information may be
requested positively by identifying a set of objects and images required (and or optionally a region and a
degree of detail desired), and or negatively by specifying the information already obtained (and or
optionally the degree of information required);
secondly downward information flow of GIO data from the server(s) to a user, either with priority given to
user proximity, or alternatively (to save computing time and bandwidth) in packets, each relating one or
more (normally non-overlapping) regions of the environment, and at a particular detail level, and optionally
based on the direction of the user from (or in) the one or more overlapping regions.
thirdly ‘A’ cross network information such as any combination of user movement, user voice or other audio,
virtual persona control information and video information; and
fourthly combination cross network information which may usually consist of compressed audio signals
from multiple users combined together by either a node computer (a user’s computer acting so as to limit
the bandwidth required by the network) or a server. Typically this may not be a single process: each user in
the network may have the option of uploading real-time continuous compressed audio information, these
may be combined to form composite compressed audio stream for each of a set of regions of the
environment. Each user may then have the option of downloading either the information stream closest to
their location, or the several most proximal such streams and optionally then combine the streams giving
priority to the more proximal streams. The end result would be that each user has the option of contributing
to, and listening to the sounds of proximal users, (and control areas which may also contribute), with an
approximate emphasis given to the most proximal audio sources.
The server(s) may define the environment as a set of regions and may maintain a number of packets of
ready-compressed data to be sent to a user on demand. One possible way would be to define a set of
three dimensional regions such as tetrahedrons or cubes, which interlock to cover the whole environment.
Another way would be to have a first such set, and one or more sets such that a region from one set
overlaps at least two from at least one of the other sets. Another way would be to define a set or sets of
regions, according to either of the above two ways, according to an algorithm, neural network, or other
system, of varying shape, size, number of outer surfaces, dimensionality - optionally according to the
arrangement of GIO in the environment, and optionally according to a prior or predicted flow of users
movements, and optionally according to prior or expected changes in the shape of the environment.
When multiple users need a particular maintained packet within a small amount of time, the server may
advantageously ‘broadcast’ the maintained packet so as to save bandwidth. In some situations it may be
advantageous to regularly broadcast a particular maintained packet. Users may choose to download such
broadcast information from the server(s) so as to have more up to date information even in regions where
the user is not currently active so as to improve future personal environment performance. This may be
optimised on the basis of past or predicted environment use. Users may choose to download such
broadcast information relating to regions where the user has never been active so as to potentially
improve future personal environment performance.
Control users may have control of any of a surface, a volume, or higher dimensional region, or separate
environment. Such a surface need not be flat, need not have any edge (for example the surface of a
sphere), and need not have a fixed shape or size. Such a volume need not have flat virtual space in the
sense of a flat space-time, need not have an outer boundary (for example moving in a straight line may
return you to the starting point), and need not have a fixed shape or size. The same general points may
apply to a higher dimensional region. The rules of behaviour, virtual physics, and conduct may be defined
by the control user of the region. In addition, a user’s persona may be modified so as to have additional
capabilities. The region may form a part of the virtual environment or may be an external virtual
environment. It may be entered from the virtual environment via a link, a surface, a volume, or a higher
dimensional region of the (main) virtual environment, or by a command from the user.

Description of the Preferred Embodiments.
An embodiment of this invention will now be explained with reference to the drawings.
Fig. 3 shows a flow diagram illustrating a method of operating a computer network server or computer
network according to one embodiment of the invention. Firstly the computer network or computer network
server generates a virtual environment comprising a virtual space having three virtual spatial dimensions
and having at least one public space. The virtual space allows a user to view the contents of the virtual
environment or at least one public space therein from any angle and any location subject to any limitations
controlled by a control user such as virtual gravity limiting the virtual height of a virtual viewing position. In
this way a more user friendly, adaptable, and varied virtual landscape or virtual structure can be provided
which can be navigated in a less structured manner. In particular the ability to change a viewing height over
a fairly planar arrangement provides a way to effectively zoom into and out of the arrangement while
remaining more user friendly to a human user than a simple zoom-able two dimensional display. Further
the ability to look sideways provides a greater flexibility to a user that is particularly valuable in a structure
where the size-scales of objects within the environment varies greatly. By moving upward away from the
small objects of immediate interest it is immediately possible for an inexperienced user to judge scales
and distances and to place the current location in context with a bigger mental map built up while
navigating the area. In this way land-marks such as huge clusters of objects towering upwards provide a
form of navigation that is simply not possible in a two dimensional zoom-able image.
Secondly at least one control user is permitted to position (both create and relocate) virtual objects (within
the virtual environment or at least within one public space), each adapted to display information. Such
objects may have almost any form but will specifically not all be parallel so as to form a two dimensional
surface. In general according to one embodiment they are positioned wherever any control user chooses
to do so, insofar as there is a control user providing an at least initial allocation of virtual space to other
control users or a system either operating autonomously and thereby being a control user itself or
controlled by the proprietors of the computer network or of at least one computer network server or of
distributed software which generates the virtual environment. In whichever manner of organisation chosen,
control users may at least create logical objects in locations to which they have permission to do so. The
form of organisation may have an initial starting arrangement or free space may be allocated on a request
basis. Space may be resold, rented and otherwise negotiated between control users.
The amount of space in the virtual environment may not be fixed. A control user may have control over the
space to such a degree that it may disobey conventional rules of physics. Space may be caused to be
‘curved’ or even disjointed such that the volume inside a cube of virtual space of 1 unit width is not equal to
1 cubic unit. This may apply across large swathes of the virtual environment affecting a large number of
control user’s spaces, or may apply within a particular space controlled by one control user so that a
‘tardis-like’ logical object could be created. In such a region the control user may control a region of space
which appears small to an outside observer, but contains ample space to display an unexpectedly large
amount of information, images, or logical objects. In the former case where the effect would apply across a
number of control user’s spaces the effect may be used to amplify or create a situation where the nearer
an observer is to a group of logical objects the smaller the user becomes relative to the respective logical
objects thereby enabling faster journey times between any two logical objects. A user’s user interface may
represent the virtual environment without adhering to the rules of perspective and may utilize different rules
to display a region so as to increase the relative visibility of portions of the virtual environment.
The logical objects themselves are not necessarily limited to any particular type and may take the form of
any displayable computer animated effect. Examples include text, animated text, images, curved images,
geometric or amorphous shapes having images generated on the surface or inside, or a three
dimensional shape or animated three dimensional shape being a symbol or being symbolic, holographic
effects, user activity dependent effects, effects having no easily observable boundaries or any displayable
combination or variation of the above whatsoever. The logical objects may have an interactive aspect and
may display according to user movements, information known about a user or information freely available
about a user. They may also appear entirely different to two different users at any one time.
Importantly the logical objects may also have the effect of a network link or pointer. In this regard selecting
such a logical object, coming into virtual contact with the logical object or any other interaction may cause a
relocation of the user to any part of at least one public space or to any part of the space controlled by the
control user of the respective logical object or to access a predetermined location in an external network or
external environment. This external network or external environment may be two dimensional and may be
the internet. In this latter case selecting the pointer representation with a section means such as a pointer
may cause a browser or the default browser to open and display a web page referenced by the pointer.
A user controlled space may have computer code respectively related thereto, thereby collecting
information on user activity at least proximal respectively thereto. In this way a control user may direct that
the respectively controlled spaces be relocated dependent on any higher level control or higher level rules
or may buy, sell or trade or otherwise obtain space in a region where there is a stronger contextual
relationship between the logical objects controlled by the respective control user and the logical objects
proximal to the new space than was the case prior to the change. This can be effected either by observing
where related material is located within the virtual environment and manually arranging for the transfer.
Alternatively an algorithm using keyword searches may determine the locations where such relationships
are strongest and accordingly automatically seeking to obtain space as close to that location as possible.
Information may be collected on user activity. Activity of particular interest would be the movements of
users who have come proximal to the respectively controlled space or logical objects, or who have
interacted with the logical objects or within the space, and particularly the movements of those particular
users shortly prior to and or shortly after such proximity or interaction. Amassing such information allows
easy identification of hotspots where the users have spent time temporarily proximal to the time of the
interactions or spatial proximities.
In any of these manners either manually or in an automated fashion control users having relationships
such as but not limited to trade partners, trade competitors, related information providers, related
entertainment providers, or any other group or pair of control users or control spaces which have a
significant relationship as seen by the users, such related control spaces may gravitate together and
cluster to form centres of particular interest to users. In addition a control user may prefer to take control of
an extra space in such a location proximal to spaces having related material rather that just to move. This
may be due to and in turn generate more than one cluster of related material per contextual relationship.
For example a car manufacturer may take part in displaying information in a cluster related to car sales,
and also in a cluster related to car racing.
In particular the above described clustering is fostered by the innate desire of some control users to
advertise their products, services, or other interests both as widely as possible and as efficiently as
possible. It will also be fostered by the design and control rules of the computer network and virtual
environment. The internet cannot for example generate such control user behaviour. It is intrinsically a
series of discrete pieces of information and it is in general not possible for a control user to fix a geometric
relationship between a respectively controlled page and a page not controlled by the respective control
user. On the other hand providing a means for such relationships inherently into the environment will
naturally result in many users exploiting this effect to promote, advertise, and solicit or to disseminate
information, and particularly for such activity to focus in regions where such activity would be most efficient.
In particular at least a plurality of the logical objects within the environment or at least one public space
within the environment will have the property of linking to an external network. This external network
provides information and may be the internet. The computer network herein described and the external
network may or may not both be the World Wide Web and may or may not operate using the same
standard network protocols. In particular at least if they both operate on the same network then at least a
plurality of logical objects in the virtual environment will provide access to or be links or pointers to at least
a part of an external network environment. This external environment may be the internet and at least a
plurality of the logical objects within at least the public space of the virtual environment may be considered
to be hyperlinks.
Thirdly the virtual environment may be controlled such that the virtual objects in the virtual environment
have a proximity relationship based on at least prior user activity or control user activity associated with
respective virtual objects. This is effected by providing the virtual space and allowing the control user or
users to position logical objects wherever they see fit and providing the effect that users within the virtual
space preferentially observe logical objects which are virtually proximal. This encourages the control user
or users to position logical objects efficiently in order to benefit from any attention that they may receive
from users. In general this may be automated in that a control user operates a computer program or other
means to automatically determine where best to position logical objects and to automatically try to do the
same. Alternatively a single control user may run such a program so as to provide respectively related
matter relatively proximally. In general such an arrangement of logical objects will be of value as an
information finding tool and interaction providing tool for users, as a means of disseminating information,
soliciting, advertising or otherwise attracting attention for control users, and as a means of the same for a
single control user.
Fourthly the server may control the computer network so as to permit users to connect to the computer
network using a plurality of computer terminal means, to have virtual access to the public space, to
observe the virtual environment from a respective virtual location, and to control the respective observing
locations. This may take the form of a log-in using a username and password or similar method, or may
be a freely accessible environment. In general each user will access the virtual environment via a
respective terminal which may for example be based anywhere in the world, or may be located in a region
such as a building or wireless access provided region. In general each user may access the computer
network which may be the World Wide Web or may be a private network. In general the virtual space may
be a three dimensional environment which may for example be generated to resemble a landscape, the
inside of a building, or an artificial universe. In general a user may have an initial observing location which
may be automatically assigned, random, a default starting location or a user-defined starting location.
In general each respective user may have control over his or her own viewing location and the movement
thereof. The form of this control may be free movement and relocation, or may be limited by the virtual rules
of physics such as virtual gravity. Similarly some objects within the virtual environment may be impervious
and there may be limits on acceleration and maximum speed. Such constraints may be set by a higher
level control user or a locally controlling control user. In general users may be able to ‘jump’ from one
location to another, say to a specified location or to a previous location, or to a location specified by a virtual
object.
Fifthly the server may control the computer network so as to permit users to access the computer network
and the virtual environment using a plurality of computer terminals which provide a user interface for
allowing the users to select a logical object from a plurality of logical objects of an external network or
external virtual environment by means of the plurality of virtual objects within the virtual environment. In
general the virtual objects within the virtual environment are any logical object or virtual object within the
virtual environment which provide or constitute a link, hyperlink, or pointer.
A user may select such an object by any means provided by the user interface of their respective terminal.
For example this may be by moving a respective viewing location to the location of the object, or bringing all
or a part of a respective persona into contact with the object, or by means of a pointing device such as a
computer mouse or by means of changing a viewing orientation to face the object and signalling by means
of for example a button such as a keyboard button. The linking, hyperlink, or pointer property of such an
object may have the property that the user’s viewing location changes within the virtual environment to that
indicated by the object, the user interface provided by the terminal displays information contained in a
logical object designated by the virtual object, a separate user interface is activated to display information
contained in the logical object designated by the virtual object, or the terminal downloads and only stores
information designated by the virtual object.
The information designated may be a two dimensional image such as an internet-page displayed on an
internet browser or displayed as part of the user interface’s function, or displayed within the virtual network
environment such as on a two dimensional surface. For example a wall type surface within the virtual
environment may contain text, the selection of which would cause the wall to display the internet-page
designated by the original text or designated by hidden information related to the selected wall or to the
selected text.
In general many logical objects in the virtual environment will comprise virtual objects, many of which will
designate, link to, or point to information, a logical object or a group of logical objects of an external
network or an external virtual environment. Preferably there will be provided within the virtual environment at
least 10 virtual objects comprising links, hyperlinks or pointers to an external network or an external virtual
environment. More preferably there will be at least 100. Even more preferably there will be at least 1000.
Preferably the external network or external virtual environment will comprise the internet. Preferably said
plurality of computer terminal means will comprise at least 10 computers. More preferably said plurality of
computer terminal means will comprise at least 100 computers. Even more preferably said plurality of
computer terminal means will comprise at least 1000 computers.
Figure 4 shows an example of how the server or computer network may operate which is self-explanatory.
Figure 5 illustrates how a terminal means may operate. The computer network described above, the
computer terminal described above and the virtual network described above are accessed - normally in
this order. The computer terminal acts to provide a user interface and hence allows a user to view the
virtual environment. The terminal is programmed to receive geometry data from the computer network and
the server and to provide a visual representation of the virtual environment from the viewpoint of a virtual
location of the user. The terminal provides the instruction s of the user to the server, and also information
from the server to the user in a visual manner. The terminal may also serve to compress and decompress
information so as reduce the bandwidth necessary for a user to use the virtual environment.
Any combination of feature as described above may be incorporated into a general embodiment of the first
aspect and in any combination.
The terms “substantially ground based mode of movement” and “substantially aerial mode of movement”
are respectively intended to mean movement with the appearance of corresponding to land based
movement of land based organisms or vehicles, and respectively movement with the appearance of
corresponding to air based movement of air based organisms or vehicles. As such a land based
movement may include a substantially jumping movement limited to comparatively short distances. Such
a short distance may for example be 10 or fewer times of substantially a standard viewing height from
substantially a ground surface. Such a short distance may be better described as one which would not
naturally be described as flying, and may be distinct from an aerial mode where direction control is
available, gliding and sustained upward acceleration are available.
The server may contain or be linked to a portion registry, additionally there may be a database of public
and controlled portions of the virtual environment, additionally there may be a database of environment
structures. Alternatively or additionally to an environment structure database each control user may be
expected to provide structure data of respectively controlled portions on request by user’s terminals. There
may be provided rules on structures such as for example a maximum structure height. In the case that a
portion division structure includes airbased portion division there may be volume allocation rather than
land or substrate allocation. In the case that control users may create aerial structure which may move at
least substantially continuously there may be proximity rules regarding proximity to other aerial structures.
A structure or portion may be a controlled to be a null structure or portion to allow improved visibility of
another structure or other structures. There may be provided virtual physical rules dictating the default
motion of objects including acceleration in a downward direction. There may be a provision that users may
pass through one another. There may be a provision that users may in general not pass through surfaces
except. Users may be permitted to relocate in a non-continuous fashion to a default, personal, or user
specified location.
Control of portions may be autonomous or may be regulated by the server or by an additional server or
central authority. Control users may buy or rent landspace and or airspace from a central authority. Control
users may provide local servers relevant to their owned, rented or otherwise controlled portions. Control
users may design functions for their respectively controlled portions to permit any combination of user
user-to-user audio interaction, ambient audio, music, games, information, portals to other sites or internet,
interactive services, online sales/services and or advertising.
In the case of an air based environment there may be rules regarding proximity and rental according to
region or according to respective space use density. In such an embodiment control users may control
their structures or have algorithms design to control their structure to optimise cost and efficiency
The term server is intended to include multiple servers sharing the data disseminating required, and also
covers the provision of a peer-to-peer network for sharing the data disseminating required.
According to one embodiment users may navigate around the environment, their respective terminals
request registry data from the server, on receipt of such data the terminals request structure data from
servers identified by the server for each portion that such structure data is requested. Structure data is
requested on the basis of the proximities of respective portions. The terminals may also request specified
levels of detail in order to optimise bandwidth use. Alternatively structure servers may provide data in a
format that starts with the most basic structure details and steadily builds up increasing levels of detail. In
such a case users may be able to specify a rate of data or a maximum detail level required.
Users may provide activity data to structure servers which may tailor information content accordingly,
structure content accordingly, and or provide services based on user identity. Structure servers may share
movement data such that users may see and interact with one another.
There may be a number of modes of movement available. These may be limited or controlled by software
controlling the user’s terminal and or by the server and or by a respective structure server of a portion that a
user is respectively located in. Modes may include a land based mode which may be a default mode.
Additionally there may be an aerial mode, Further there may be a combat mode where users may have
additional interactive movement options. Viewing may be possible at a user level. If a user has a symbolic
body or ‘skin’ then this may be viewable from a 3rd person perspective. Additionally users may be able to
modify such skins, and may be able to design structures for use as bodies or vehicles. There may be a
default landscape provided by the server in the form of landscape data which may be visible in the case
that no data is received from a structure server.
The server or an administrative server may offer users a starting portion of the environment initially by
default.
Where reference has been made to the server this may be taken to be replaceable by a network of servers
including a network of computers operating as a peer to peer network and may be a network of servers
hosting data for multiple control users.
According to one aspect there is provided is a method of organising a 3D virtual environment for use via a
network including controlling the server of the first aspect for permitting transfer of control of each of a
plurality of portions of the virtual environment between control users such that each control user may seek
to optimise a respective control position.


CLAIMS

1.         A server adapted to be remotely accessible via a computer network, to operably support a
virtual environment having three virtual spatial dimensions, and to permit a plurality of users to access
said computer network and said virtual environment using a respective plurality of computer terminal
means by transfer of virtual environment data to respective users,
each of said plurality of computer terminal means being respectively adapted to provide a user
interface for at least one respective user,
said virtual environment being a virtual space comprising a plurality of portions thereof, virtual content
thereof being separately and respectively controllable by each of a plurality of respective control users,
said computer being adapted to permit each of a plurality of control users to at least create or modify
at least virtual structures or images within respectively controlled portions of the virtual environment,
said computer being adapted to at least permit or accept transfer of control of each of said plurality of
portions of the virtual environment by receipt or transfer of control data from at least respectively
original control users,
said computer being adapted to permit said plurality of users to observe the virtual environment from a
respective virtual location and have at least limited control over the respective observing location by
transfer of virtual environment data to respective users and transfer of at least movement or location
data from respective users.

2.         A server according to claim 1 for permitting control users to interact to permit portions of the virtual
environment controlled by differing control users to form information content based proximity relationships
therebetween.

3.         A server according to claim 1 or claim 2 for permitting control users to interact to permit portions of
the virtual environment controlled by differing control users to form information content based clusters.

4.        A server according to any one of claims 1 to 3 wherein each of a plurality of portions of the virtual
environment contain structures and display information.

5.        A server according to any one of claims 1 to 4 wherein each of a plurality of portions of the virtual
environment contain at least displayed information or structures comprising at least one of logical
pointers, links or hyperlinks.

6.        A server according to any one of claims 1 to 5 comprising or linked to a registry of at least one of
control user data or virtual environment control data.

7.        A server according to any one of claims 1 to 6 comprising or linked to an electronic trading platform
for trading control of portions of the virtual environment.

8.        A server according to any one of claims 1 to 7 wherein transfer of control of portions of said virtual
environment may be performed by means of automated algorithms controlled by respective control users,
such algorithms being adapted to seek to optimise a respective control user’s controlled portions of the
virtual environment according to a respective control user’s preferences.

9.         A server according to any one of claims 1 to 8 adapted to maintain a public portion of the virtual
environment free of control from control users for enabling user access between otherwise adjoining
controlled portions of the virtual environment.

10.         A server according to any one of claims 1 to 9 adapted to optimise a portion division structure of
the virtual environment to permit optimum access by users to controlled portions and optimum usage of
virtual space by control users, according to portion usage by control users.

11. A virtual environment controlled by the server of any one of claims 1 to 10

12. A computer program for a server adapted to control the server to control the virtual environment of claim
10.

13. A trading platform for supporting transfer of control users control of respectively controlled portion of the
virtual environment of claim 12.

14. A computer program for controlling the trading platform of claim 13.

15. A server operably supporting the computer program of claim 14.

16. A computer program for controlling a computer to accept environment data from the server of any one
of claims 1 to 10 for providing a visual representation of the virtual environment and for accepting at least
movement or location data from a user and transmitting at least corresponding data to said server.

17. The computer program of claim 16 adapted to accept at least one search term and to provide a visual
indication of portions of the virtual environment having information content therein or related thereto
matching said at least one search term.

18. The computer program of claim 16 or 17 adapted to accept at least movement data from a respective
user to transmit such at least movement data to the server of claims 1 to 10 and to provide a visual
representation of corresponding movement through the virtual environment.

19. The computer program of any one of claims 16 to 18 adapted to accept mode data from a user
indicating one of at least a substantially ground based mode of movement, and a substantially aerial
mode of movement.

20. At least one computer readable medium or computer readable data signal singly or jointly encoding
therein at least the computer program of any one of claims 12, 14 or 19 or virtual environment data of the
virtual environment of claim 11, or at least movement or location data from the computer of claim 19.

21. The method of uploading , downloading, encoding or decoding data having encoded therein the
computer program of any one of claims 12, 14 or 19.

22. A virtual environment, having three virtual spatial dimensions as herein before described with
reference to figures 1 to 5.

21. A method of operably supporting or accessing a virtual environment having three virtual spatial
dimensions as herein before described with reference to figures 1 to 5.

22. A computer and display means adapted to access a virtual environment having three virtual spatial
dimensions, to allow a user at least limited control over the observing location and orientation, and to
display a view of the virtual environment from a virtual observing location and orientation as herein before
described with reference to figures 1 to 5.

23. A computer program, computer network or server for controlling a virtual environment having three
virtual spatial dimensions as herein before described with reference to figures 1 to 5.

24. A computer program for controlling a computer and display means to access a remote virtual
environment as herein before described with reference to figures 1 to 5.
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