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ABSTRACT
A computer network, server or group of servers, computer terminal means, methods for operating the same,
computer programs thereof, signals and media carrying data related to the same, and a virtual environment,
wherein the server controls a computer network which operably supports a virtual environment which has a
public space having 3 dimensions and users in virtual locations. Users both send and receive audio. The
received audio is composed of audio from nearby users mixed in real time based on a virtual distance
relationship.


A network server supporting a virtual 3D audio environment

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
virtual environment, for being accessed by users, wherein the virtual environment has at least three virtual
spatial dimensions in which users may be virtually located, each user being able to provide audio data thereto,
and being able to receive audio data from the virtual environment being a mixture of audio data from a plurality
of virtually proximal users the proportions of audio content thereof having a proximity relationship according to
the virtual locations of the respective providing users and the receiving user.

It the past various internet communication systems and servers have been developed. In general is it valuable
for users to be able to communicate and to express themselves to one another.
Internet chatrooms have been conceived whereby it is possible to type text into an interface and to see text from
other users listed in real-time. Additionally emoticons, being symbols which may also be introduced to the text,
have been introduced to allow users to be more expressive during communication. Further, audio rooms have
been developed whereby one or sometimes more than one user may send an audio stream to a server and all
active users may receive the audio data stream or a mixture of the audio data stream mixed without bias.
Additionally network video games have been designed wherein participants may type into a user interface. This
however is equivalent to a network video game with a chatroom attached. Very little additional progress has
been made to improve the conversational interaction experience for multiple users accessing a virtual
environment via a network such as the internet.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a three dimensional virtual environment, network, server,
method, signal and interface which provides an improved network environment audio experience for a user.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a means for improved audio communication between a
plurality of people each having access to a network or to the internet.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a means by which each of a plurality of users may
experience improved audio communication.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a means to emulate or simulate to a predetermined
accuracy a real sound environment whilst minimising the calculations required to achieve said predetermined
accuracy.
It is a yet further object of the present invention to provide a means whereby network users may interact in a
virtual environment able to provide a virtual approximation of real point to point acoustics.

According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided at least one server adapted:
to operably support a virtual environment having three spatial dimensions;
to permit a plurality of users to access said virtual environment using a plurality of respective computer terminal
means;
to permit said plurality of users to each observe the virtual environment from a respective virtual location, to
have at least limited control over the respective observing location, to provide an audio data stream to the
server, and to receive an audio data stream from the server;
to accept an audio data stream from each of the plurality of users;
to provide an audio data stream to each of the plurality of users; and
such that an audio data stream provided to a user is composed of a mixture of a plurality of audio data streams
respectively received from a plurality of users substantially virtually proximal thereto, the respective component
proportions of the provided mixed audio data stream having a pre-determined relationship to the virtual
proximity of each respective substantially virtually proximal user to the receiving user.
According to a second aspect of the invention there is provided a computer network comprising the at least one
server of the first aspect passing information to or from said at least one server.
According to a third aspect of the invention there is provided a method of operating at least one server having
the steps of:
maintaining a virtual environment being a virtual space having three virtual spatial dimensions;
permitting a plurality of users to at least connect to the virtual environment, to have virtual access to the virtual
environment, to observe the virtual environment from a respective virtual location, and to have at least limited
control over respective observing locations within the virtual environment;
receiving respective audio data streams from a plurality of users;
mixing the respectively provided audio data streams from the respective plurality of users to produce at least
one outgoing audio data stream;
providing to the receiving user an outgoing data stream composed of a mixture of audio data streams provided
by a plurality of users, the component proportions thereof having a pre-determined relationship to the
respective virtual proximities of the respective audio data stream providing users to the receiving user.
According to a fourth aspect of the invention there is provided a computer terminal means adapted to provide a
user interface for at least one respective user, and adapted to access the at least one server of the first aspect
via a computer network, to access a virtual environment operably supported by said computer, to provide a user
interface for at least one user, to allow at least one user to provide an audio data stream to the at least one
server, and to receive an audio data stream therefrom,

According to a fifth aspect of the invention there is provided a method of operating the computer terminal of the
fourth aspect having the steps of:
connecting to and accessing the at least one server of the first aspect
providing a user interface for at least one user;
permitting the at least one user to provide an audio data stream to the at least one server, and to receive an
audio data stream therefrom.
According to a sixth aspect of the invention there is provided a computer program having computer instructions
for performing the method of any one of the third aspect and the fifth aspect.
According to a seventh aspect of the invention there is provided a computer readable medium having at least a
computer program having computer instructions for performing the method of any one of the third aspect and
the fifth aspect encoded thereon.
According to an eighth aspect of the invention there is provided a method of uploading or downloading data
having at least a computer program having computer instructions for performing the method of any one of the
third aspect and the fifth aspect encoded therein.
According to a ninth aspect of the invention there is provided a virtual environment adapted to be operably
supported by the computer network of the second aspect.
According to a tenth aspect of the invention there is provided a digital network signal conveying data between a
server and a terminal having at least geometry data of the virtual environment of the ninth aspect encoded
therein, or at least a request for geometry data of the virtual environment of the ninth aspect encoded therein.
According to an eleventh aspect of the invention there is provided a server for supporting a virtual environment
having three virtual spatial dimensions as herein before described with reference to figures 1 to 5.

According to a general embodiment of the invention at least one server adapted:
to operably support a virtual environment having three virtual spatial dimensions;
to permit a plurality of users to access said virtual environment using a plurality of respective computer terminal
means;
to permit said plurality of users to each observe the virtual environment from a respective virtual location, to
each have at least limited control over the respective observing location, to each provide an audio data stream
to the server, and to each receive an audio data stream from the server;
to accept an audio data stream from each of the plurality of users;
to provide an audio data stream to each of the plurality of users; and
such that each audio data stream provided to each user is composed of a mixture of a plurality of audio data
streams respectively received from a plurality of users substantially virtually proximal to the respective receiving
user, the respective component proportions of the provided mixed audio data stream having a pre-determined
relationship to the virtual proximity of each respective substantially virtually proximal user to the receiving user.

According to a general region embodiment of the invention the virtual environment is divided into a plurality of
regions each such region having one or more audio source virtually therein having an ambient audio stream
composed respectively thereof, each audio sink receiving ambient audio streams from any regions meeting a
predetermined virtual distance criterion, and each audio sink receiving audio streams from each virtually
proximal audio source except itself not being in such a region meeting the predetermined virtual distance
criterion, all audio sources within a predetermined virtual proximity radius of a respective audio sink, except
itself where the respective audio sink is also an audio source, passing audio data to the respective audio sink
either directly or as part of an ambient audio stream.
According to a general association embodiment of the invention the plurality of audio sources being assigned
to associations according to relative virtual proximity and each audio sink receiving an audio stream from any
association of audio sources at least the nearest respectively thereof or the average virtual position thereof
meeting a predetermined virtual distance criterion, and each audio sink also receiving an audio stream from
each virtually proximal audio source except itself not being in such an association meeting the predetermined
virtual distance criterion, all audio sources within a predetermined virtual proximity radius of a respective audio
sink, except itself where the respective audio sink is also an audio source, passing audio data to the
respective audio sink either directly or as part of an ambient audio stream.
It should be noted that defining regions as described above is analogous and equivalent to defining
associations as described above and hereafter the terms may be taken to be interchangeable.
In either case of region definition and association definition there may preferably be provided automatic
adjustment of either the regions or associations so as to minimise the computational power required to mix all
the audio streams appropriately to achieve a desired level of approximation to the case where all streams are
mixed separately for each audio sink.
According to any of the embodiments there may be automatic adjustment of regions such that each region will
act to have or to prefer to have a predetermined number of audio sources therein.
According to any of the embodiments there may be automatic optimisation for achieving the situation where a
minimum number of audio stream mixing calculations must be performed.
According to any of the embodiments there may be automatic grouping or association of audio sources in one
or more size scales with larger groups overlapping smaller groups such that when mixing audio streams to
generate a audio sink stream individual audio streams may be introduces up to an inner defined virtual
distance, thereafter groups, associations, or ambient audio streams relating to up to a maximum size may be
introduced up to a second defined inner virtual distance whereafter groups, associations or ambient audio
streams may be introduced up to a second maximum size. Such a series may continue for any number of
defined inner virtual distances or there may be provided a defined continuous relationship of virtual distance to
a group and the maximum size that the group may be. Such a relationship, series or relationships or
continuous relationship may relate to the distance of the nearest member of the group or to an any defined
average distance of the group members or region, and the size of the group may relate to the difference of the
virtual distance of the nearest member of the group and the furthest member of the group.
Preferably there will be a defined inner virtual distance within which audio streams are mixed individually for the
audio source and similarly for each audio source.
Preferably there will be a defined outer virtual distance beyond which there is no requirement that audio
sources will be mixed to form the audio sink. In general between these two extremes pre-mixed audio streams
or ambient audio streams are adequate.
Preferably regions, groups or associations may overlap such that any source may add to any number of group
or ambient streams. This will be most important for the case where there are typically a large number of audio
sources within any defined outer virtual distance.
Preferably there may be a plurality or processors within each of one or more servers and or there may be a
plurality of servers, whereby each processor or server is assigned one of a number of audio source groups to
take charge of, or a predetermined area or volume of the virtual environment to control such that in the case of a
large number of users each server need only deal with a reasonable number of users. Of course in this
situation care must be taken over audio stream control and behaviour at the interface between an area or
areas controlled by one server or processor and an area or areas controlled by another or others.

According to any of the aspects of the invention, 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 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.

Figure 1 is a diagram of a one dimensional simplification of a three dimensional virtual environment according
to an embodiment of the invention showing information flowing from left to right for providing an audio data
stream to one user;
Figure 2 is a diagram of a two dimensional simplification of a three dimensional virtual environment according
to an embodiment of the invention showing information flowing for providing an audio data stream to an audio
sink;
Figure 3 is a diagram of a two dimensional simplification of a three dimensional virtual environment according
to an embodiment of the invention showing information flowing for providing an audio data stream to each of
two users labelled as audio sinks; and
Figure 4 is a diagram of a two dimensional simplification of a three dimensional virtual environment according
to an embodiment of the invention showing information flowing for providing an audio data stream to an audio
sink.

A three dimensional virtual environment network, method, signal and interface is provided by at least one
server such that users may access the server and the virtual environment, have a virtual location within the
virtual environment, and may provide a stream of audio data to the at least one server and may receive an
audio data stream therefrom.
Each audio data stream provided to the at least one server is associated with a virtual location of the providing
user. Each user requests or automatically receives an audio data stream from the at least one server. The
received audio data stream is composed of a mixture of audio data streams of any users virtually proximal to
the receiving user. Received audio data streams are composed according to a predetermined rule such that
the received audio data stream represents ambient audio data for a virtual location of a receiving user and
takes into account nearby users providing audio data and the distances thereto.
Audio data streams may be compressed audio data streams according to any compression format and may
be provided according to any data transfer protocol. They may be composed of internet data packets.
Provided that a suitable compression format is chosen such as one which represents a Fourier transform of a
sound level may be mixed without first being decompressed. Otherwise it will normally be necessary to
decompress the provided audio data streams before mixing them.
A provided audio data stream may be treated as though it had a virtual location in order to simplify the concepts
involved. Similarly the virtual location of a user to whom an audio data stream must be sent may be considered
a virtual listening location. Thus an audio source is a virtual location providing audio data and an audio sink is
a virtual location requiring audio data.
Creating an audio data stream for an audio sink may require determining which audio sources are sufficiently
near to the audio sink and mixing the audio data streams from the audio sources according to respective
virtual distances to the audio sink.
In general every user is an audio source and provides an audio data stream and every user is an audio sink
and requires an audio data stream.
According to one embodiment each audio sink must be calculated independently.
This requires a large amount of processing power, especially as the audio data transfers will very preferably be
performed in real time. Lag or delay must be kept to a minimum. In the case of a large number of users a
reduction in processing power requirement and hence lag is possible by dividing the virtual environment into a
plurality of regions. These regions may overlap, or may not overlap. The two cases may be considered
equivalent as an overlap of two regions may be considered as a third region.
According to another embodiment the virtual environment comprises a plurality of regions to which each audio
source may provide audio data according to a predetermined proximity rule, the audio data to each region is
averaged to provide an ambient audio data stream or ambient audio source of each region, each audio sink is
calculated by mixing each proximal audio source from each of a predetermined set of a region or regions
including the region that the audio sink is in and from each ambient audio source from each of a second set of
regions not including any included in the first set according to a proximity rule.
This reduces the number of sources that must be mixed and thus reduces lag so that real time interaction is
possible with ignorable lag and requiring a reasonable (although still large) amount of processing power.
In general a high level of data compression is used to reduce the processing power required.
Additionally there may be a division of labour between many servers such that each server handles a
predetermined group of regions, avoiding the need for one server to handle all the data management. In this
case extra care must be taken at the borders between groups of regions so that data is transferred correctly
and the correct result obtained.
Audio data may be transmitted as data packets each containing a fragment of audio stream data preferably
more than six per second, more preferably more than eight per second, more preferably eleven per second, yet
more preferably fourteen per second.
Audio data may preferably be transmitted in a compressed format for reduced bandwidth consumption.
Audio data may preferably be transmitted in a format suited to mixing such as a format representing a Fourier
transform of the waveform of the audio, or being a frequency spectrum of the audio, or being a wave form of the
audio.
Audio data may more preferably be both compressed and suitable for real time mixing.
One possible way to define regions of the environment 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 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 and optionally according to a prior or predicted user movements, and optionally
according to prior or expected changes a the shape of the environment.
There may preferably be a hierarchy or groups such that information may be grouped to minimise data
processing.   
Normally of course the audio from a user will not be mixed into an audio stream for return to the same user.
Normally there will be provided some limit to the calculated proximity of a source and a sink or an according
mixing level. A zero distance may, depending on the rule used to mix streams, cause arithmetic errors or
generate a meaningless audio stream and should be avoided.

Description of the Preferred Embodiments.
An embodiment of this invention will now be explained with reference to the drawings.
Figure 1 is an illustration of a one dimensional virtual environment as a simplification of a three dimension
virtual environment showing various audio sources in various regions. The information is depicted flowing from
left to right from a large number of audio sources to one as a simplification of the indented case where audio
information flows from potentially all the sources to all the sinks (except back to themselves and to sinks
further than a predetermined distance or in a region or group of regions further than a predetermined distance).
Figure 2 is an illustration of a two dimensional virtual environment as a simplification of a three dimensional
virtual environment, showing information flow from many audio sources to one audio sink as a simplification
as above.
Figure 3 similarly shows information flow in a two dimensional simplification depicting how the information
may flow to provide in this case two audio sinks. Unfortunately a diagram showing all sources being
recombined to make the sinks, all the sources being sinks would be unreasonably complicated. Similarly
information flow in a three dimensional environment would be difficult to depict with a 2D line drawing
intelligibly. This figure however shows a preferred case where various association or groups are defined
according to relative proximities. These associations may be large or small or may be according to any criteria.
Each sink draws audio individually from any nearby sources with appropriate mixing according to any
predetermined relationship, and also from groups or associations which each have an ambient audio stream
provided that the nearest of a respective group is not closer than a predetermined virtual distance. It is
preferred that there is a scaling relationship whereby closer groups are accepted provided that they are
sufficiently small. Such size is preferably measured as the difference between the virtual distance to the
furthest minus the virtual distance to the nearest. Therefore an apparently relatively large group could be
accepted if all the members thereof were at comparable distances in an arc or partial shell around the
respective audio sink. In this figure associations are shown as circular bubbles or by defining a region of the
virtual environment. However for practical purposes this is equivalent to simply associating those same
members, the imaginary surface of a defined region serves no purpose except to define members of a group.
Figure 4 illustrates a similar two dimensional simplification with the generation of ambient audio streams not
being shown. A preferred relationship between size of group accepted for a sink and the distance to the
nearest member thereof is a continuous one however here for ease of depiction there are provided a 1st inner
radius or distance threshold, sources within which must be mixed individually, a 2nd inner radius or distance
threshold within which groups or associations may be used up to a 1st predetermined size and beyond which
groups or associations may be used up to a 2nd predetermined size, and an outer radius or distance
threshold beyond which there is no requirement that a source must be included in the respective sink.
Normally there will be a requirement that all sources within an outer radius must be so included. As can be
seen within the 1st inner radius groups are ignored and individual streams are used, one larger group which
straddles the 2nd inner radius is ignored because the nearest member is too near and so the smaller groups
therein must be used, and some sources beyond the outer radius are used because it is convenient to use the
group they belong to in order to include all the sources inside the outer radius.
As can be appreciated diagrammatic representation beyond this level of complexity become inappropriate.
However in a preferred embodiment there will be a continuous relationship of individual source inclusion,
group inclusion and maximum size thereof according to virtual distance from a respective sink, and there will
also be a relationship of a mixing strength according to virtual distance from the respective sink. The latter
relationship is preferably strictly adhered to in the case of individual components, but in the case of group
components the mixing is preferably based on the same relationship provided that each of the components of
a group are assumed to be at same distance from the respective sink. Preferably the server will control the
mixing such that all sources within an outer radius are included and also preferably each source may be
included via a maximum of one route for a respective sink.
Preferably a routine used to determine groupings or associations will identify bunching of users on at least one
scale and more preferably on a plurality of scales, preferably such a routine will then determine the number of
sinks which will use or are likely to use an identified bunch were that bunch to be made a group or association
and perform this for all identified bunches, and preferably then according to such determinations create groups
or associations accordingly.
Preferably the relationship between mixing value and distance or assumed distance will have an inverse
squared relationship preferably except at very close range where the relationship will preferably plateau to
prevent loss of audio quality, and preferably except at long range where the relationship will have a zero value
to obviate excessive computation and audio mixing at ranges where the value would otherwise be too low to
permit useful audio transfer.
Preferably where sources are mixed individually, the component mixing relationship will include mixing audio
power divided by a square of the virtual distance between source and sink. There will normally not be any
mathematical rule to ensure a predetermined audio level such that sinks a large virtual distance from any
sources may have little or no audio signal in their audio data stream.

Any combination of any features as described hereinbefore may be incorporated into any embodiment of
invention to form a new embodiment.
The computer scientist skilled in the art of acoustics virtual network environments and optimisation routines
such as genetic algorithms , golden section search, Newton-Raphson ridge optimisation, simulated
annealing, object pooling, nodal analysis as well as neural networking optimisers will be able to think of any
number of ways in which a set of groups or associations may be chosen. In the simplest case they may be
chosen from a starting point with the nearest 10 sources simply bunched together, the next nearest point not
already chosen then becomes a seed for the next group of 10 etc. It is not essential that every source is part of
a group. In the preferred case that the associations or groups change according to the movements of the users
or the audio sources the simplest possible solution is to repeat such an optimisation or grouping routine or
association routine on a timescale small or comparable to the timescales on which users may be expected to
relocate across distances comparable to typical group or association sizes. The skilled computer scientist will
naturally be able to think of any number of ways of adjusting groups automatically according to movement of
users. An example of a basic method would be to monitor movement of users and if a user moves away from it’
s group or associated peers then transferring the respective user to another group as soon as it is closer to
that group than it’s original group. As can be readily perceived it is not appropriate to discuss particular
computer routines as there are any number of predetermined methods to assign a ser of users to a grouping
structure. Also it will be trivial for said person skilled in the art to envisage a relationship between component
mixing and virtual distance. The typical such relationship would be a fixed value up to a close-up virtual
distance, decreasing thereon as the square of the virtual distance up to an outer radius virtual distance
whereupon the relationship function drops to zero. This is of course modified in the case that an audio source
is mixed as part of a group or association in which case the predetermined relationship is inaccurate.


CLAIMS

1. At least one server adapted:
to operably support a virtual environment having three spatial dimensions;
to permit a plurality of users to access said virtual environment using a plurality of respective computer terminal
means;
to permit said plurality of users to each observe the virtual environment from a respective virtual location, to
have at least limited control over the respective observing location, to provide an audio data stream to the
server, and to receive an audio data stream from the server;
to accept an audio data stream from each of the plurality of users;
to provide an audio data stream to each of the plurality of users; and
such that an audio data stream provided to a user is composed of a mixture of a plurality of audio data streams
respectively received from a plurality of users substantially virtually proximal thereto, the respective component
proportions of the provided mixed audio data stream having a pre-determined relationship to the virtual
proximity of each respective substantially virtually proximal user to the receiving user.

2. The at least one server of claim 1 controlling said virtual environment so as to associate groups of audio
source streams and to generate ambient audio streams therefrom such that an audio sink stream may be
composed of a mixture of a plurality of audio source streams respectively received from a plurality of
substantially virtually proximal users thereto, and of at least one ambient audio stream from a plurality of
associated users.

3. The at least one server of claim 1 or 2 controlling said virtual environment so as to associate groups of audio
sources according to a predetermined criteria such that the number of audio streams which must be mixed to
provide a predetermined quality for each audio sink stream is substantially minimised.

4. The at least one server of claim 3 controlling said virtual environment so as to associate groups of audio
sources and to adjust such associations as the virtual locations of audio sources and audio sinks change so
as to continuously act to substantially minimise the number of audio streams which must be mixed to provide
a predetermined quality for each audio sink stream.

5. The at least one server of one of claims 1, 2, 3 and 4 where each of the plurality of users provides an audio
source stream and is provided with an audio sink stream and the mixing of virtually proximal audio streams is
performed to provide each of the plurality of users with an audio source stream.

6. The at least one server of one of claims 1 to 5 wherein each of the plurality of users is able to access the
virtual environment, to control a respective virtual orientation within the virtual environment, to control a
respective virtual velocity within the virtual environment.

7. A computer network comprising the at least one server of any one of claims 1 to 6, passing at least
information therefrom and information requests thereto.

8. A method of operating at least one server having the steps of:
maintaining a virtual environment being a virtual space having three virtual spatial dimensions;
permitting a plurality of users to at least connect to the virtual environment, to have virtual access to the virtual
environment, to observe the virtual environment from a respective virtual location, and to have at least limited
control over respective observing locations within the virtual environment;
receiving respective audio data streams from a plurality of users;
mixing the respectively provided audio data streams from the respective plurality of users to produce at least
one outgoing audio data stream;
providing to the receiving user an outgoing data stream composed of a mixture of audio data streams provided
by a plurality of users, the component proportions thereof having a pre-determined relationship to the
respective virtual proximities of the respective audio data stream providing users to the receiving user.

9. A method of operating the at least one server of any one of claims 1 to 6.

10. A computer terminal adapted to access the at least one server of any one of claims 1 to 6 via a computer
network, to provide an audio data stream to the at least one server and to receive an audio data stream
therefrom.

11. A method of operating the computer terminal of claim 10 having the steps of:
connecting to and accessing the computer network and the at least one server;
accessing the virtual environment operably supported by the computer;
providing a user interface for at least one user;
permitting the at least one user to send an audio data stream to the at least one server; and
receiving an audio data stream from the at least one server.

12. A computer program adapted to control the at least one server of any one of claims 1 to 6.

13. A computer program adapted to control the computer terminal of claim 10.

14. A computer program having computer instructions for performing the method of any one of claims 8, 9 and
11.

15. A computer readable medium having at least a computer program having computer instructions for
performing the method of any one of claims 8, 9 and 11 encoded thereon.

16. A method of uploading or downloading data having at least a computer program having computer
instructions for performing the method of any one of claims 8, 9 and 11 encoded therein.

17. A three dimensional virtual environment adapted to be operably supported by the at least one server of any
one of claims 1 to 6.

18. A digital network signal conveying data between at least one server and a computer terminal having at least
one of geometry data of the three dimensional virtual environment of claim 17 encoded therein and a request
for geometry data of the virtual environment of claim 17 encoded therein.

19. At least one server for supporting a virtual environment having three virtual spatial dimensions as herein
before described with reference to figures 1 to 4.

20. A virtual environment having three virtual spatial dimensions as herein before described with reference to
figures 1 to 4.

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 4.

22. A computer program for controlling at least one server to support a virtual environment having three virtual
spatial dimensions as herein before described with reference to figures 1 to 4.
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