With various technologies available today, you can design your own newspaper or your personal radio program. But now, scientists at Northwestern University want to design your personal TV newscast. News At Seven generates a virtual news show by collecting, editing and organizing news stories which are introduced to you by a virtual anchor. So far, the system creates a three-minute daily news update, featuring U.S. and international stories picked from mainstream media and the blogosphere. But one day, you might choose the subjects you're interested in and be able to watch TV news tailored to your interests. This innovation looks like a bright idea, but read more...
It's interesting to note that Northwestern University published the same news release about News At Seven two weeks after its own McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science News, "News at Seven Newscast Offers Virtual Anchors, Personalized Content" (October 6, 2006).
Anyway, here is an introduction to this work in progress.
Co-invented by Kristian Hammond, co-director of Northwestern's Intelligent Information Laboratory (Infolab), and graduate students Nathan Nichols and Sara Owsley, "News at Seven" collects, edits and organizes existing news stories based on a user's interests, then passes the formatted content to the virtual anchor. Using Web resources like Google and YouTube, the system utilizes the text of news stories to retrieve video, images and blogs related to the content of the story.
Let's look at a couple of images at our virtual anchor. Below is the introduction of the newscast. (Credit: Infolab, Northwestern University)
And even on the virtual TV set, while she was reporting on NASA, she has enemies that she needed to shoot. (Credit: Infolab, Northwestern University)
Here are some explanations from Kristian Hammond about the system.
"It's a completely personalized, completely automated news report using Web resources," explains Hammond. "The system can create an original news package based on someone's interest, then deliver it on demand. It is the first step in creating a world in which information is automatically gathered, edited and delivered to people based on their interests and needs."
Let's turn to the News At Seven project page for some more technical details.
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.
So far, the system is so young that it's not customizable by people like you and me. But "with further research and development, the creators of News at Seven hope to offer a commercially viable replacement to the typical televised news show.
In the mean time, you can watch several demonstrations of the system. Here are two links to short movies (in Windows Media Player format). The images above have been extracted from a newscast released on September 24 (2 minutes and 59 seconds, 37.4 MB) while the second one, created on October 16 is focused on the nuclear explosion in North Korea (1 minute and 45 seconds, 24 MB).
Sources: Northwestern University news release, via EurekAlert!, October 20, 2006; and various websites
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