have seen the future and it is us!"
Walt Kelly's Pogo, paraphrased
looks, acts, and behaves like any human newscaster; she displays a range
of emotions that includes winking, smiling, and even snarling; and she can
also speak 16 different languages. Ananova is always on, 24 hours a day,
delivering the news you want, whenever you want it. She is a Wired Walter
Winchell, 2001's Hal, Star Trek: The Next Generation's onboard
computer, and the Connie Chung of the virtual highwayall rolled into
one. Ananova is the voice of the future.
the creation of Ananova, the world's most advanced Internet and communications
technologies were called upon: Digital animation group plc (DAG), Lernout
and Hauspie, RealNetworks, and Digital Islands. Scottish-based
DAG, one of the UK's leading animation specialists, developed real-time
3D animation technology, bringing Ananova to life and enabling her to present
breaking news with a "human" touch in
real-time, with information via video bulletins.
Ananova represents the ultimate human/computer interface. The virtual character
concept came from an idea to create a human interface for a text-based news
service. She was conceived with the idea that face-to-face communication
is the oldest and most natural interface in the world. The human face delivers
a feeling of interaction and trust, engaging the listener with eye contact
and expression. Research shows that people prefer to receive information
from a human source, and respond more positively to the sound of a female
voice. Aesthetically, a female face is often more pleasing to the eye, and
the female voice is traditionally used for communicating information, such
as the speaking clock or announcements at railway stations. Of course, Ananova
the company realized that a virtual newscaster would also be a world first,
which would position the company across the globe as innovative.
Creation of Ananova
designers of Ananova had a number of criteria to meet when they created
her. She had to have global appeal and good looks, while still being trustworthy
and believable at the same time. Her
look was chosen so that she is attractive to the eye and is as neutral as
possible. Most people have preferences in personal appearance, and by giving
Ananova a unique stylesuch as green hair and a region-free, mid-Atlantic
accentshe can appeal to more people. Having these distinctive features
ensures that Ananova is unique and instantly recognizable, making her synonymous
with breaking news and information.
is not based on any one person (although some people say she is a cross
between Kylie Minogue, Carol Vorderman, and Posh Spice). Designers spent
many hours choosing a combination of facial features that would give her
a distinctive, yet appealing, look. She
was designed for the Internet and mobile devices, and it was important for
her to have distinctive features due to the varying quality of display.
Her proportionally larger mouth and eyes serve to engage the user at whatever
size she is displayed.
Technology behind the Virtual Newscaster
technical challenge for Ananova's developers initially was how to engineer
a fully-animated 3D character capable of creating dynamically-generated
news bulletins in a style and tone appropriate to specific pieces of content.
create Ananova's voice, text-to-speech synthesis software from Lernout &
Hauspie (L&H) was integrated with Ananova's real-time information systems.
Feedback from the L&H Realspeak generates the automatic lip-synching on
her face. This ensures that her words are almost indistinguishable from
human speech. In-depth, language-specific linguistic knowledge provides
intelligent pronunciation and allows text to be read by a human-sounding
Using technology supplied by RealNetworks, Ananova is seen in the form of
on-demand streaming video. RealNetworks
was selected to support Ananova's real-time bulletins with its RealSystem
R G2 technology. Streamed through the RealPlayer R, Ananova offers more
than 115 million unique registered worldwide users of RealPlayer a new way
to access news and information.
Francisco-based Digital Island ensures that Ananova can reach her worldwide
audience using its global e-Business Delivery Network. Using Digital Island's
Footprint on-demand streaming service, on-line audiences can view
Ananova's broadcasts simultaneously around the world, giving users high-speed
local access to streaming content for broadcast-quality viewing.
and the World
is very careful about what Ananova the virtual newscaster does and does
not do. She has to remain a trusted source in the same way that newsreaders
on today's television are viewed. Just a year-and-a-half old, Ananova still
receives accolades and praise in newspaper and TV articles around the world.
She is an official Guinness World Record holder as the World's First Virtual
Newscaster, and has been invited to speak at conferences hosted by The United
Nations, Cisco Systems, and the Newspaper Association of America. Ananova
receives Valentine cards, marriage proposals, and requests from schoolchildren
for help with their homework. In Holland a couple even named their child
after her (spelled Annanova). Click on the image below to go to Ananova.com
and see for yourself if this phenomenon is indeed the face of your
Limited is part of the Orange Mobile Communications Group, one of Europe's
most innovative Internet businesses. In April 2000, the live news and
information website was launched, featuring real-time news, sports, entertainment,
business, and weather for the UK.
Ananova Ltd. 2001. Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved.