It's a familiar trope in cyberpunk fiction, like William Gibson's Neuromancer - the city as a giant data construct, existing online as a massively complex simulation in which information flows like great rivers through a virtual metropolis.
Navigating this terrain is gradually evolving from science fiction to fact, as 3D modeling and virtual reality technology play an increasingly critical part in modern urban planning. And nowhere is the concept more dramatically illustrated than in the fast-forward digital architecture project known as Virtual Singapore.
Set to launch within the year, Virtual Singapore is an ambitious data visualization model developed by Singapore's National Research Foundation in collaboration with French software company Dassault Systèmes and several other private companies and government agencies. The idea is to create a virtual replica of the city itself, built out of the infinite bits and bytes of digital information.
Think of it as a kind of SimCity interface, but with every technical spec you can think of - and many more that you can't - cranked to eleven.
The $73 million 3DExperience City project will allow city planners to navigate through a virtual representation of the city in real time while accessing all sorts information on the population and built environment. A city architect, for example, might hover her cursor above a building and click to see how much energy the facility is using, the number of inhabitants or the amount of data flowing through local wireless networks.