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Death Watch

Cybermourn's virtual funerals, mourning becomes electric.

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The wired set that likes to shop and date online instead of in person can now mourn without trading in their jeans for dark suits and black dresses. With family and friends spread around the world, it can be tough to gather a decent crowd for a memorial these days. But now Cybermourn -- the latest project from Simplex Knowledge, the White Plains company that brought surveillance cameras to day-care centers -- broadcasts funerals "live" over the Internet.

So far, though, people aren't exactly dying to test the new technology. Only one Brooklyn funeral parlor -- Cosgrove & Sons of Sunset Park -- currently offers Cybermourn, and at its first and only virtual funeral last spring, a total of twelve people paid their respects online. That could be a sign that the great beyond isn't an easy exit off the information superhighway, but with funeral attendance down, morticians are looking for new sales avenues. "It just makes the funeral home move into the new millennium," insists Ed Cosgrove. "What's paramount in all this is good taste."

For decorum's sake, only bereaved with passwords can log in for "viewing hours," and the family decides whether to focus cameras on the casket or on the guests. In the near future, though, grievers will also be able to send e-mail condolences and even deliver video eulogies. "Whatever you would've done in person, you can do online," explains Jack Martin, who co-created Cybermourn with his wife, Patti. "For someone who's shy and doesn't like to stand up in front of a group, this is better than doing it live." Not everyone at a funeral gets to say that.


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