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Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life

Ananova remembered: return of the newsbot

If you remember Ananova, the world’s first avatar newsreader, fondly, she seems to have changed her hair colour, put on glasses, called herself Miranda and found a new job at the Welwyn and Hatield Times. The synthesised voice is as irritating as Ananova’s was.

Ananova was launched by the Press Association with much drum-beating and fevered speculation about her first words in April 2000. In the end she said: “Hello, world.”

By July, PA decided to let Ananova go and she moved to Orange in a £95 million transfer deal. While her site continues, she has been unavailable since sometime in 2004, according to Wikipedia.

Oddly, there is still a video link on the Ananova site. It takes you to a page with a small picture, a message that she is under development and suggesting a return visit.

So are there any advantages in newsbots? Well, they are cheap. And they may be useful for blind people although if they use their text-to-audio readers they could choose the voice.

Reporting on Miranda’s debut, Hold the Front Page says that rather than employing a real flesh-and-blood human to do the job, the Archant weekly has hired a virtual newsreader.

If the idea catches on this time, it could help the BBC meet the funding shortfall it faces as a result of the new licence fee settlement. But, for the moment, I prefer Natasha Kaplinsky.


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