Friday, October 27, 2006

Half Life News Anchor

For years, our wasted youth has played Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Battlefield 1942, Doom, Quake... and now, finally, we finally have something useful to show for it: customized newsfeeds anchored by virtual characters. Swank-hay.

This isn't exactly shocking news... the idea of using a virtual character in a visual narrative like news has been tossed around for years, and even done in a rotoscoped form with Max Headroom, but it's never been a fully automated news delivery service like this one. Here, see what they say about it and remember to keep your mouth from dropping open:

News At Seven is a system that automatically generates a virtual news show. Totally autonomous, it collects, parses, edits and organizes news stories and then passes the formatted content to an artificial anchor for presentation. Using the resources present on the web, the system goes beyond the straight text of the news stories to also retrieve relevant images and blogs with commentary on the topics to be presented.

Once it has assembled and edited its material, News At Seven presents it to the audience using a graphical game engine and text-to-speech (TTS) technology in a manner similar to the nightly news watched regularly by millions of Americans. The result is a cohesive, compelling performance that successfully combines techniques of modern news programming with features made by possible only by the fact that the system is, at its core, completely virtual.

This is the shape of the future—highly specialized news broadcasts. If you're only interested in North Korea, stamp collecting and the price of wheat, you'll get a news broadcast on only those items, including blog commentaries if you so wish. It's the sexiest way to aggregate information I've seen so far, and it's only in its infancy.

More on News at Seven.

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