BOSTON - So you want to be the next Eric Clapton and perform in sold-out arenas before thousands of screaming fans but there's this problem in that you don't know how to play the guitar?
Not to worry. Ahead Inc. of Bedford, Mass., has introduced the Virtual Guitar, a computer peripheral that allows the most ham-fisted air guitarist to enter the fantasy world of rock stardom.
The Virtual Guitar is packaged with West Feedback, a CD-ROM game that challenges the computer user to play the game by strumming along at the proper rhythm.
A meter that resembles an electrocardiogram appears on the screen, prompting the guitarist to keep tempo and advance to fame and fortune.
A variety of popular tunes are incorporated into the game, including ``Hey Jealousy'' by the Gin Blossoms and ``Kick Start My Heart'' by Motley Crue. A separate game featuring the group Aerosmith also has been introduced.
The Virtual Guitar was selected as the best consumer electronics product in Boston on April 4 at the new-product design competition sponsored by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastic Division.
The guitar is built around a structural module and neck, gas-assist molded in a 40 percent talc-filled polypropylene. Altitude Inc., a design and development firm based in Somerville, Mass., experimented with an open neck back and structural ribs but the results were unsatisfactory, said Tim Coonahan, director of engineering.
``It just didn't give us the feel of a real guitar,'' Coonahan said.
Instead, Alti-tude useda gas-assist process that produced a smooth neck back. The part is also hollow, which reduces material costs.
``Structurally, you couldn't beat the gas-assist,'' Coonahan said.
The guitar, which is about 95 percent the size of a standard electric guitar, also has an injection molded PP body assembled in a two-piece clamshell fashion.
Molds for the Virtual Guitar were made by I. Thibault Inc. of St. Damien, Quebec, Techno-Moules plc Inc. of St. Damien, and K&K Tool Ltd. of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The molder was IPL Inc., also of St. Damien.
The Virtual Guitar and game sell for about $90.