Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reading is so passé

Reading on the web could become almost as retro as, well, reading a newspaper. (Not that there’s anything wrong with reading a newspaper.)

A pair of companies promoting beta versions of their technology this week at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco showed how they can create audio and video from simple text, thus obviating the need to read.

After wrestling a bit with Dixero.Com, I got it to render an ordinary RSS feed of Newsosaur in a highly mechanized, but reasonably understandable, voice. Dixero is based in Lugano, Switzerland, and you can subscribe to the service now to experience the effect.

A Montreal company called Xtranormal.Com built a system that allows you to make animated films on the fly by typing text and cues into a dashboard. At the moment, the players in the video are limited to a bunch of Lego-like bobbleheads available from a library on the site. In addition to the canned demos on the site you get an idea of the application from the video below.

While these science-fair projects admittedly are more fanciful than practical at the moment, imagine the day when a newspaper or broadcast website could hook simple text feeds to an Xtranormal-type system to inexpensively produce automated videocasts of the news, sports, weather and more.

The robocasts could be hosted by images of real-life (or, alternatively, synthesized) news readers and then published not only on the sites but also syndicated via widgets, YouTube and mobile devices.

If users were given a choice of RSS feeds or subjects, then each could get a uniquely tailored video. For that matter, they even could pick the roboanchor of their choice.


Blogger Mary Specht said...

For a pretty good example of this robo-reading, check out the tech magazine Red Herring. (Click "listen now" at the top of an article).

Here's a random article:

7:21 AM  

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