By Liz Gannes
There are times when it’s inconvenient to read — for instance while cooking or working out at the gym — so you might find yourself tuning into a TV newscast. But perhaps instead of facile local news or the jabbering heads of cable news, it could be a personalized newscast.
That’s the goal of a Miami-based startup called Guide, backed by investors including the Knight Foundation, which is making an app where users can choose from a variety of avatars to present stories from their favorite news sites.
It is totally wacky. An alpha version of the product had me fixating on the “uncanny valley” of a near-human lady with shiny lipgloss reading me a story in a halting voice with her mouth barely moving. (See below.)
But the more smooth part of the demo was when the robot newscaster transitioned to a video segment included in the news report, and then back to the text.
Guide founder and CEO Freddie Laker said in an interview that he feels this interpretation of multimedia content will be key — separating out videos and photos and pull quotes, and turning them into an engaging presentation. A long, text-heavy story won’t be ideal for Guide.
The company is working on a plugin for WordPress that would help bloggers record their posts so they can be automatically converted into Guide segments, with avatars lip-syncing them.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.