Science fiction has always promised us an escape to imaginary worlds. Now advances in CGI technologies have ripped world-building off the page and rendered it into 3D images that move around in real time. This week on io9, take you on a weird expedition into virtual worlds.

Though virtual worlds began with world-building in scifi novels and fantasy-oriented art, they are now almost indistinguishable from reality. In this gallery of images, you can see 3D images posted by people on Flickr - they run the gamut from amateur to professional, from obviously fantasy to intensely realistic (that image of grass and flowers would certainly have fooled me if I didn't know it was CGI).


All week, we'll be exploring virtual worlds in movies, TV, games, art and books. We'll be talking to people who create virtual worlds, as well as bringing you reports on cutting edge technologies for making virtual worlds so seductive that you want to take vacations in them. And of course we'll have trivia, galleries, rants, and reviews that cater to all your simulated environmental needs.

Thanks to io9's virtual worlds week sponsor, The Sims 3 game, we'll also be giving out cool prizes in our week-long contest for people who have created scifi scenarios using The Sims games (more on that tomorrow).

So put on your fictional sunblock, slip on those VR glasses, and let's go to the simulated seashore. Or to the superheated thermal vents in the ocean floor. Or to a giant squid party. Just program in the location and we'll see you there.