I googled it to see what I could come up with and found this press release. Seems it is old news, but it was scheduled to be out by the Beijing Olympics and did not make it on time.
What I saw on the TV show was impressive as far as depicting the acutal Forbidden City. The virtual people looked on par with WOW but without all the flash and fanticy.
IBM ANNOUNCES “THE FORBIDDEN CITY: BEYOND SPACE AND TIME”
A major initiative to bring Chinese art and culture to the world
Beijing - 16 Jun 2006:
IBM today announced "The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time," a new cultural heritage initiative that will present the history and splendor of China's Forbidden City to a global audience. The project, undertaken in partnership with The Palace Museum, will bring Chinese culture to the world by creating a virtual online recreation of the Forbidden City and associated sites in Beijing. This online environment will be a fully immersive, interactive world that corresponds architecturally and historically to the vast grounds of the current Palace Museum, allowing visitors to experience three-dimensional representations of cultural artifacts and places such as the majestic Hall of Supreme Harmony.
"The interconnectedness of architecture and history at the Palace Museum creates a unique sense of culture that has no equal. It is this unique spatial experience of Chinese culture that "Beyond Space and Time" seeks to bring to the world," said Henry Chow, general manager, IBM Greater China Group. "To create this experience requires an innovative approach and IBM is set to use the latest technology to tell the stories of Chinese culture through artifacts, people and places."
Chow and Xin Miao Zheng, China’s vice minister of Culture and head of The Palace Museum, participated in a signing ceremony to officially begin work on the multi-year project, one that represents the merger of real space – the grounds of The Palace Museum – with a virtual presence. The result of this merger, a participatory cultural environment, permits remote visitors the chance to experience the culture and stories of The Forbidden City in a way never before possible. Though three-dimensional representation is widespread in the field of cultural heritage, fully interactive, participatory cultural worlds do not exist. The "Beyond Space and Time" participatory cultural environment is a first-of-a-kind idea.
Visitors to the actual Palace Museum in Beijing also will find their experience enhanced by the project. A suite of location- and context-based services will utilize aspects of the participatory cultural environment to deliver virtual point-of-view images that help indicate how one should move through the physical environment. Exhibit-based technology will allow a "window" into the virtual world through which on-site visitors can learn more about their physical location.
IBM is granting significant technology and services to create "The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time." The project will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2008. It will be presented in Chinese and in English.
"This project will help people around the world understand the rich culture of China, our history and our people," said Zheng. "We look forward to working with IBM on ‘The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time’ to help educate people in China about our fascinating history and to introduce our culture to millions outside our country."
"The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time" is the next significant step in a series of major IBM initiatives to demonstrate the powerful role technology plays in bringing the arts to people all over the world and in advancing the understanding of art and culture. For more than 10 years, IBM has partnered with organizations to bring their art and culture to the world. For example, in 1998, IBM unveiled the results of its partnership with the Hermitage State Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, which, for the first time, captured some of the world’s most beautiful masterpieces online in striking detail to be enjoyed and studied by anyone, anywhere with access to the Internet (www.hermitagemuseum.org).
And in 2004, IBM announced the results of its Eternal Egypt project – breakthrough collaboration with the Egyptian government to provide worldwide access to more than 5,000 years of Egyptian history (www.eternalegypt.org).
"IBM’s cultural heritage projects are examples of how our company demonstrates that innovation matters," said Stanley Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation and vice president of IBM Corporate Community Relations. "We are proud to be a part of a project that will help share a unique view of China and its culture with the world."