New virtual newsreader threatens 24-hour news channels
Northwestern University’s Infolab, just north of Chicago has recently started a project to create customised news bulletins which are created based on individual user preferences.
Star of the show is a virtual newsreader. This all seems very reminiscent of Ananova, a Press Association project in the late 90s. Ananova was basically a novel front-end to web news, driven by data feeds. (It was sold to Orange in 2000, but the avatar appears to have been abandoned some years ago)
The Infolab project goes a step further in that as well as looking at the text data, it searches the web for associated media to wrap in with the story (like Google News perhaps). The aim is to present a completely automated video news bulletin.
If this works, the triumph with be the technology, might it mean that continuous news channels would be freed from having to fill 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, when there isn’t much on? Professional reporters could get on with finding stories and let the computer do the rest!
I’m a little skeptical about whether an avatar reading the news is a suitable substitute for a real human, but I suppose we have to wait and see what the results are like at the conclusion of the project.