Tyra new model in virtual contact

Co. launching 3-D studio tied to gabfest

Celeb-obsessed fans who don’t want to risk a restraining order have a new way to get up close and personal with the stars.

Virtual online worlds such as Second Life have become favorite hangouts for celebs, from hip-hop mogul Jay-Z to the cast of MTV’s “The Hills.”

Now, daytime diva Tyra Banks is getting in on the act.

Starting Feb. 19, Telepictures Prods. will launch a “virtual studio” tied to Banks’ gabfest via the Music Lounge, a 3-D virtual world operated by a company called Doppelganger. Banks fans can hang out online and chat using digital replicas of themselves, or avatars.

The big draw will come when Banks herself stops by her virtual studio, using her avatar to interact with fans. She’s already made one visit, hosting an invite-only Feb. 12 post-Grammy party in cyberspace.

Banks says she’s “blown away” by how advanced the technology involved is, and welcomes the chance to interact with auds. “I’m so hooked,” she says.

Just how hooked remains to be seen, however. There’s no set schedule for how often Banks will drop by the virtual studio, though Telepictures reps say she’s already made several unannounced pre-launch visits.

“Tyra is going to be spontaneous about it,” says a rep. “There is no set schedule, and that’s what’s great about this.”

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