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Voice-Enable Your Animated Online Characters With Flash

Voice-Enable Your Animated Online Characters With Flash

The ability to create speaking animated characters, also known as avatars, for individual Web sites is accessible, costing less than $15 a month. Oddcast's VHost SitePal relies on Macromedia Flash animation to easily include audio messages using various 'talking' software, from Text-to-Speech to voice recording.

Voice-enabled animated characters are being used as part of training courses, as interactive guides helping Web site visitors navigate pages, as part of Internet-based advertising campaigns, and for consumer purposes, such as the use of avatars by eBay buyers and sellers. For a new technology, now enjoying widespread accessibility, the range of features, customizations, uses, and technical implementations is impressive.

Users can create characters that match their needs, using an extensive number of templates that allows creating unique avatars. Over 20 base templates are available, spanning a number of divergent ethnicities, genders, and ages.

Users can elect to have any photographic image of their choosing used in this way. Each template can be customized according to physical features like hairstyle, skin tone, eye color, clothing, and accessories. Assigned voices can include any voice a user wants, using both prerecorded and human speech. If users want to use their own voice, or anyone else's, realistic lip-synchronization automatically matches the movement of lips.

VHost SitePal includes with its basic package, five different pages, in which five unique SitePal characters can be included. A one-year license gives 30,000 audio streams, which means characters can "speak" 30,000 times. A large number that far exceeds how avatars are typically employed. A library containing other graphical elements, like backgrounds, is included, with an audio library so various sounds can be incorporated.

Since the application uses Flash, plug-ins is not needed. SitePal works with any Web site using dial-up or broadband, with an average character size of 60Kb, and optimized audio streaming compatible with any back end programming language such as ASP, PHP, JSP, Python, and others.

Depending for what purpose characters will be used, a number of choices are available by which speech can be created and controlled. For example, Text-to-Speech can convert written text to spoken audio. Developers can type whatever they want avatars to say, with information dynamically pulled from a database.

In addition, using VHost Artificial Intelligence (AI), characters can be programmed to automatically respond to questions posed to them by online visitors, a helpful feature that can help visitors, who may otherwise be on uncertain ground when dealing with Web sites offering services or goods, to feel at home. Oddcast includes free e-mail support, and the convenience of updates, which can be done using a telephone. Speech can be changed without accessing the site.

Some innovative uses of SitePal include using characters in eBay auctions. Characters can be added to any auction. Jace Davis, of JS2 enterprises, used SitePal in this manner, and said, "We started using VHost SitePal for our eBay listings a couple of months ago and have experienced a jump in sales by over 35%." Several other commercial uses of VHost have been successfully employed by companies large and small, from ESPN, Coca Cola, to sites highlighting artists' portfolios.

An introductory account costs $14.95 per month. A one-year license runs $119.95, while a premium account costs $499.95. The pricing difference is because of an increased number of options and pages that are made available.

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MXDJ News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the world of software design and development and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for MX developers.

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Most Recent Comments
vox pop 01/05/05 05:01:29 PM EST

Extremely cool.