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Automatic Machinima News-Broadcasting 138

MattSparkes writes "Researchers claim to have produced software that automatically generates timely video news bulletins, presented by computer-animated characters, which could revolutionise current affairs broadcasting. The system, called News at Seven, takes RSS news feeds and does some formatting before passing it to an avatar from Half-Life 2 to read out. Based on keywords, the system also draws in video from YouTube and images from Flickr to supplement the speech."
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Automatic Machinima News-Broadcasting

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  • Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cleon ( 471197 ) <cleon42 AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:32AM (#16578762) Homepage
    Nifty! Now, how long before they come up with a Max Headroom version? :D
    • I'd like to see Fox News Hannity and Colmes and Doodle-Bob. (For the uninitiated - Doodle Bob was a magic pencil sketched self-portrait of Sponge Bob. Doodle Bob leaped off the page but was unable to effectively deal with being a two-dimensional character in a three-dimensional world. Doodle Bob suffered what appeared to be the cartoon equivalent of a schizophrenic break. You know "fair and balanced". Gosh the irony here is endless . . . ( URL: http://www.unitedspongebob.com/page.php?page=doodl ebio [unitedspongebob.com] )
    • Machinima [wikipedia.org] is 3D animation in which the characters are/were controlled by humans during recording.

      If the "News Anchor" is completely automated, this is not considered Machinima.

      </tech jargon nazi>
      • Do you really want to see Leroy Jenkins reading the news through his avatar? Actually, I do.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Mattintosh ( 758112 )
          A guy I work with sent this to me a few months ago.

          America: OK guys, Hezbollah has given us a lot of trouble in the past, uh does anybody need anything off these guys or can we ignore them?
          Britain: Uhh, I think Israel needs something from this guy.
          America: Oh, does he need those kidnapped soldiers? Doesn't - isn't he gonna try to work something out?
          Britain: Yeah, but that will help him look better, he'll have more credibility.
          America: [sighs] Christ. OK, uhh well what we'll do, I'll run in first, uh gather

    • I was talking to a guy in his mid-twenties yesterday and Max came up in conversation. (We were talking about sound stutter issues in a program we are developing.) The guy didn't even know who Max Headroom was! I felt ... cold. So cold.
    • Get your terminology right. It will undoubtedly be a "mash-up" of Max Headroom, RSS, and Google Video.

  • One question. (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by B3ryllium ( 571199 )
    Any nudity?
  • by d474 ( 695126 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:35AM (#16578806)
    ...is me. I have been created. I speak about news. Thank you for watching.
  • i wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by kevin.fowler ( 915964 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:39AM (#16578882) Homepage
    I wonder if it's broadcasting about this story.

    woah META NEWS
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gt_mattex ( 1016103 )
      I wonder if the technology develops sufficiently will actual news anchors be worried about their jobs?
      • by daeg ( 828071 )
        I just asked one. She laughed. A lot.
        • Re:i wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gt_mattex ( 1016103 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:58AM (#16579256)
          So did a great many factory workers when asked if their jobs could ever be automated by 'machines' run by 'computers'. A great many things seemed unlikely in the past and are common place today. Hell a great many things seemed unlikely 50 years ago what will the next 50 bring? Is automated news anchors that far out of the perspective?
      • Indeed - we could replace all celebraties with computer generated images. Or, there again, maybe the human touch does add a little something.

        Repeat after me It is better to relate to a human being than to a machine.
        • It's better to have relations with a human being than to a machine.

          Damnit! I always screw that up. *smacks self on the forehead*
        • Indeed - we could replace all celebraties with computer generated images. Or, there again, maybe the human touch does add a little something.

          Repeat after me It is better to relate to a human being than to a machine.


          The fetishization of the carefully crafted artificial media image of celebrities is not, in any meaningful way, relating to a human being.

  • I love the idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thansal ( 999464 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:40AM (#16578892)
    However, Ihave to admit that it would just be FAR to tempting to do a google bomb style prank with this.

    1) Generate a number of silly write ups/pictures/videos
    2) Wait around for a tempting news article (dubbya saying something inflamitory)
    3) Post all of your existing junk with titles that relate to the news piece
    4) ?????
    5) Laugh as they get included! (err, I mean profit, right)

    Oh, and on a side note, I thought that HL2 characters could be fed lines and they would automaticly speak them as well as forming the proper mouth movements....
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Or, just wait for it to screw up on its own. Fark, Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, etc pick it up, broadcasting the results to millions! A few days ago, Google news featured a story about Jessica Simpson. The picture it included with the story was a topless photoshoped image. A similar screw up from something like this could be epic!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ford Prefect ( 8777 )
      Oh, and on a side note, I thought that HL2 characters could be fed lines and they would automaticly speak them as well as forming the proper mouth movements....

      Not really - the game uses recorded speech files (from flesh-and-blood voice actors) which are then run through various external tools [valvesoftware.com] to extract phonemes and visemes.

      I remember seeing someone's HL2-related work on text-to-speech [valvesoftware.com] a while back - it appears to be the same system being used for this News at Seven thingy. One nifty feature:

      There also exi

    • by garcia ( 6573 )
      However, I have to admit that it would just be FAR to tempting to do a google bomb style prank with this.

      You would probably have to have a site that is being spidered by news.google.com (which is very possible if you have a relevant news blog) or you would have to have a pre-existing site with a good article history.

      Personally, I don't think it would be worth the time and effort to get it all up there just to have a robot read off something stupid about the President. Hell, we don't need an avatar to do it
      • by Thansal ( 999464 )
        Nah, I wasn't even looking for specifics, I was just hoping for inclussions of random Flying monkies, exploding toilets, and other such simple minded pleasures (nothing malicious, just silly)
    • So they've got a news collector that's like Google News except it tries to rewrite the text into simpler grammar in ways that may be inadvertently funny, and play it as cartoons. If I want funny, I'd much rather see Jon Stewart take the news events and shred them in ways they deserve, and if I want news, I'd rather read it.
    • Wouldn't it just be easier and less time consuming to mock up your own fake story in HL2 and AfterEffects?

  • Skeptical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekmansworld ( 950281 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:40AM (#16578902) Homepage
    Isn't this the basically the same thing as Ananova [ananova.com]? And didn't that come out, like, 6 years ago? I am skeptical. News anchors, don't start looking for a new job just yet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by peragrin ( 659227 )
      well Ananova is British, and therefore it doesn't count until the Americans do it. Caus our president says we be better.

      Note I love ananova. The selection of news stories there is the simply the best. You can read about the strangest stuff on there.
    • Unfortunatly I never saw her in action. At the same time however, from wikipedia they claim she's been out of contact for 2 years? So perhaps it's time she returns or we get Alyx!

      Honestly this does sound interesting. But I'm still not sure how useful it'll be in the end. If they had speech generation tacked on it's be a pure win. But synthesized speech has been completely crap for years, we might be getting closer but I'd much rather watch something like nude news, than a poorly synthesized voice. Onl
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) *
      Ananova was an automated presentation system, but she/it read from scripts generated by humans.
      • Only in the sense that all news stories are initially written by humans. The stories were also selected by humans, but the generation of the presentation was entirely automated, with no hand editing of the content. She even attempted to guess at the tone and emotional context of each story by examining the content. Ananova was a superb piece of work, and it's astonishing that the technology has been Gulaged.
    • Tell me about it. I bailed from the company that developed her [digital-animations.co.uk] shortly before development started, but kept in touch with the guys that developed her. I was really impressed with the technology; the creation of the video from a story was entirely automated, even down to guesstimation of the appropriate tone and emotions from the content. It was a fine piece of work, and a damn shame that they sold it (exclusive rights) for so little to a purchaser that lost interest and discarded the technology.
    • News anchors, don't start looking for a new job just yet.

      Unless you want to become real journalists.

      Ooohhhh snap!

      Seriously, I think that anchor culture in news is a mistake. Why do we need to see an avatar or person delivering news for it to be trustworthy? I find a lot of the plastic talking heads on television news decidedly untrustworthy, as more care seems to have gone into diction than thought, and their veneer of omnipotence vanishes once the teleprompter breaks.

      I've lived in both the US and Ireland,
  • reading things out loud is not a problem. the problem is that nobody will be watching a robot. people want people. for the same reason nobody would watch formula-1 or nascar if cars were driven by robots, the same reason makes slashdot and digg much more popular than google news tech.
    • No, actually I would rather watch Alyx than any of the anchors on today with one caveat- no lame jokes.
    • I read Google News a lot.

      I would watch robot races.

      Millions have watched the Mars rover robots.

      This is just a different flavor of something to find interest in, not something to displace all else.

      Initially this will have some interest due to the novelty, it will wane some and perhaps even die, but something like it will eventually work well enough and hold interest with enough people to be viable, especially if it custom tailored the news for you.

      If and when AIs eventually become powerful eno
      • This is exactly the sort of thing that will lead to more corporate consolidation of the news which is a nightmare. The one working example we have of automated news broadcasting on a wide scale is clear channels automatic radio stations. Guess what happened during hurricane Katrina that's right there were very few small towns with local news coverage. Far from more automatic news we need more local news which requires more feet on the ground not less. Note this is not a jerimad against technology, techn
  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:45AM (#16578978)
    No matter how it's presented, what's being presented isn't news.

    News is properly defined as functional information.

    However, in our day and age, where television *is* our culture, the definition of news is *news as seen on TV* - and news on TV, like everything passed through that medium, is converted into entertainment.

    And that's why we no longer have a meaningful public discourse; news, news everywhere, and not a functional fact to think about.

    • i think that 24 hour realtime coverage of paris hilton's reproductive habits is so functional... how else am i going to plan my day? besides, i love watching the 11 o'clock news with my mom and listen to her muse about how the world is going to hell.
    • by mrraven ( 129238 )
      Ding, ding, ding news is a real live human being who knows history, culture, science and politics deciding what is relevant and providing context and background information to the bare facts. This is the worst sort of use of technology akin to new speak in 1984 that makes us all a little less intelligent and insightful the farther it progresses. So mod parent up!
    • news, news everywhere, and not a functional fact to think about

      That is, unless you read Slashdot and change your preferences to mod Insightful and Informative comments +2.

    • by Skadet ( 528657 )
      or radio.
  • We are pleased to anounce the NudeNews version avatar's, which well keep you upto date and happy at all times
  • Thank God ! (Score:2, Interesting)

    Soon, we can rename The O'Reilly factor as Tomb Raider and replace that bald CGI character with Lara Croft !
    • by mrraven ( 129238 )
      I agree Orwellian. If our so called intelligent slashdot readers can't see that this would be the death of investigative journalism and long form news that makes us think about world events deeply then we are all in serious trouble. Hint the reason U.S. politics is so screwed up and yes in both major parties is shallow bumper sticker slogan politics. If all news is "headline" news this will only get worse.

      If we still had a 4th estate that practiced long form investigative journalism and really dug for fa
  • Huh? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Phs2501 ( 559902 )
    Shades of Ananova [wikipedia.org]...
  • "Technorati and Google Blog Search are also used find opinionated blog posts related to the topic of the broadcast. "The software looks for words and phrases indicative of emotional impact,"

    Gee thinks.
    • words and phrases indicative of emotional impact

      Dear Slashdot,

      As a prolific Slashdotter, I feel I must protest about the previous post. I am nearly sixty and am quite mad, but I do enjoy listening to the Geeks in Space podcasts. If this continues to go on unabated ...Dunkirk... dark days of the war... backs to the wall... Alvar Liddell ... Berlin air lift ... moral upheaval of Profumo case ... young hippies roaming the streets, raping, looting and killing.

      Yours etc., Brigadier Arthur Gormanstrop (Mrs)

  • This is, without a doubt, spectacularly cool. I certainly won't deny it.

    BUT

    I really doubt if this (or something like it) will ever play a significant role in the way news is disseminated.

    Given the medium of television, news shows play a logical role. Since TV is a one-way, one-speed presentation medium, news shows perform the role of deciding what you want to find out about, and presenting the information in the format(s) you most want.

    How effective they are at filling this role is a different question, of
  • It's called "Katie Couric 2.0."

    Now if only they could find a way for viewers to dial down the "Perky" setting...

    Crow T. Trollbot

  • "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all!!"

    What kind of youtube and flickr files would this one suggest?

    I guess next we will have anchorman gangfights (remember the movie "Anchorman"?) in the MMORPG's- gangs of angry anchorman avitars running around looking for those guys that are taking their jobs.

    That could even be made into an Anchorman MMORPG in it's own right!
  • That news today ISN'T delivered by plastic coated manufactured imitations of human beings? Well, there's nothing I look forward to more than getting my news from Cartoons. At least it'll be honest deception.
  • by Control Group ( 105494 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:53AM (#16579168) Homepage
    This just in!

    "They're waiting for you, Gordon - in the test chamber."

    Cutscene at 11.
    • And welcome to City 17 Morning Show. We have a Vortigaunt here to share his recipe for Frito pie. Later, where there are rockets, there are gunships: caring for your Mechanical Overlords.
    • by nuzak ( 959558 )
      Dr Breen would actually be a pretty good voice for the news. Now imagine the G-Man reading it. Brrr.
  • I prefer replicants to avatars.

    Cue me up some "Buster Friendly".
  • But I can't find it using the search. Then again, I never can seem to find past articles with that. But I don't know where else but /. I would have found out about it
  • You only think I guessed wrong - that's what's so funny. I switched characters when your back was turned. Ha-ha, you fool. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia", but only slightly less well known is this: "Never go in against a news anchor, when comedy [youtube.com] is on the line.".

    Just one great reason why we need real news anchors.
  • A sugar-candy coating of technology for everybody to accept receiving information without any kind of processing/verification from journalists !

    Well... get ready for the future !
  • As commented already... isn't this just a new method for feeding information into Ananova? Doesn't seem like much of a breakthrough to me? Seems Ananova was taken offline though sadly... I rather enjoyed her quirky reporting style.
  • I just watched the sample video on the North Korean nuke issue. While the researchers' intentions might be good, the application still needs some work for it to be taken seriously. The speech was choppy and broken and I think it will be difficult for them to reproduce personal names accurately. Until a machine can dynamically produce clear, fluid speach, I don't see this taking off.
  • Have you seen the machinima gaming news show, Tra5hTa1k? http://trashtalk.illclan.com/ [illclan.com]

    But seriously, this kind of automated thing baffles me. Even though I'm a machinima director, I'm not sure I would want to watch an animated talking head deliver my news.
    • But seriously, this kind of automated thing baffles me. Even though I'm a machinima director, I'm not sure I would want to watch an animated talking head deliver my news.


      Can't see how it could possibly be any worse than the talking heads that deliver news on the teevee now.

      • True!

        I guess I'm a poor judge of this stuff since I don't watch any television at all, and if I did, the last thing I would watch is news. I prefer to read my news. And I like getting it from the web so I can pick and choose by headline.
  • we're getting closer and closer to the mock-up prediction someone made a while ago in a flash movie about Google or something... slightly remember automatically being served news cut out for us.
  • Finally, something for Max Headroom [wikipedia.org] to beat in the ratings.

    The creepiest part of this watershed is just how much today's political landscape resembles the one covered by "Network 23".
  • Binary Picture Show has been doing something like this for a while with their Gaming News with Lady Mainframe [binarypictureshow.com].

    Granted it's not an automated system, but I can almost guarantee it's much more entertaining.
  • It's pretty obvious that they've been using anamatronic robots for news anchoring for years! Surely no one here thinks the "news teams" over at Fox or CNN are actually real? They're about as life-like as the robot rat over at Chuck-e-Cheese! Actually the Chuck-e-Cheese rat (And the Cryptkeeper) have a lot more personality. Maybe the 24 hour news network bots were the first generation, prototypes for the more convincing models down at the local kiddie pizza joint...
    • It's pretty obvious that they've been using anamatronic robots for news anchoring for years!

      After the Dan Rather animatron went bzzt on the tv you would think so. I thought PBS was going to buy it for salvage but...
  • by J05H ( 5625 )
    Sounds like Ananova with built-in scripting.
  • "Todays headline: contraceptive-united's stock took a dive today..

    ..Several sources report that the combine's suppression field is up and running again".

    Weather forecast: Time to hop in those HEV suits people.: We're looking at heavy downfall and some headcrab."
  • I could see an automated weather channel working with this. The subject matter is limited which simplies the system. Besides, the human avitars they use now are not much different from computer generated ones anyway.
  • There's a little known bit of software called Steam, from a small company called VALVe. They frequently update it, and announce weekly news automatically to their small subscriber base.

    ...and the amazing thing is VALVe PUBLICISED & LINKED 'NEWS AT SEVEN' THEMSELVES, ON STEAM, LAST WEEK.

    Arrrghhh.

    Call yourselves nerds? Pah! Surely News at Seven is Old Old Old News at Seven.

  • software that automatically generates timely video news bulletins, presented by computer-animated characters...

    Great. As if human on screen news announcers aren't superfluous enough.

    I often think about the Movie Camera Syndrome exhibited at family picnics when I was a kid. Somebody's aunt or cousin pulls out an 8mm movie camera and points it at kids who are talking or playing animately (no pun intended). The kids promptly stop whatever they're doing and look at the camera with a note of slack jawed

  • All we need is a model to read us slashdot headlines and postings that are about modded high. I think this could work well for some people. I'd rather get my news from anime characters than Peter Jennings. Here is a question what talking head/oracle would you feel most comfortable recieving your news/media format in?

    I hate radio news people that try to funny and interupt the music for their morning programs. I wouldn't really want to listen to slashdot being read to me. I can read faster than I can listen.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23Gc0pcQWvw [youtube.com]

    Here's a music video that showcases the lipsync and emotions that the HL2 engine is capable of.
  • by Some_Llama ( 763766 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @01:25PM (#16581040) Homepage Journal
    "before passing it to an avatar from Half-Life 2 to read out"

    It won't be long until these "avatars" start biasing the news towards their personal beliefs.. like denegrating head crabs, or constantly slanting the news against Dr. Breen.

    Not to mention the crowbar lobby's already powerful influence...
  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @01:48PM (#16581444)
    CBS has been using this technology for their evening news since September 5th. I think that the virtual presenter is named 'Katie'.
  • Excellent! The pieces to turn MythTV into a system to run one's own personal automated TV station [slashdot.org] are coming together. This is the piece to get aggregated televised news stories for news breaks, breaking news interruptions, and news shows, without the need to enslave offspring.

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