News Like Never Before

By T.K. Maloy

LONDON, UK -- After April, nothing might be the same for the news industry -- and indeed the Net -- when Ananova hits the scene. Who is she, you ask?

Ananova is a creation of the Press Association of theUnited Kingdom and she is a virtual broadcaster who will read news, sports, weather, travel information, stock reports, and so on. And she comes with a personality, her creators say. The purpose of the virtual newscaster is to place a "face on information," according to the Press Association New Media division.

"Down the line, lots of people will still be technophobes that don't want to interact with databases. We believe that we'll need to have nice interfaces for people, and this is where Ananova comes in," Mark Hird, director of the PA New Media division, told news media.

The Ananova newscast will use advanced search engine technology that will spider targeted parts of the Web as often as once a minute, picking up important changes as they happen.

"So if you're passionate about a particular film star you can use Ananova to check if any new gossip about them has just been posted on the World Wide Web" reads a promo blurb at the Ananova website, as an example of the "targeted" news feeds.

Compared by some observers as a cross between Kylie Minogue,Posh Spice, UK television personality Carol Vorderman and Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, she will have changing expressions, depending on the story. She won't laugh while giving disaster news, or frown reading a happy story.

Working with the Digital Animation Online (UK) company, the PA New Media division accomplished the difficult task of animating Ananova by using XML "tagging" for the news stories, which "define" what kind of story it is. Ananova will "read" using advanced text-to-speech software.

The PA have created background information for Ananova, including the fact that she is 28-years-old, 5 feet 8 inches tall; likes Mozart and the British rock group Oasis; has a fixation on sports statistics and likes the Simpsons. She speaks with a transatlantic accent, after early test showed that a more upper-crusty Brit accent was not winning listeners. 

Planned for an April release, Ananova will initially begin broadcasting through the Press Association website using RealPlayer. Later expansion plans call for moving broadcast into the realm of mobile devices such as palmtops and Web-enabled mobile phones.

For further information click here:

The Ananova Home Page

The (UK) Press Association

Digital Animations Online