Creating Your Website’s Virtual Door-Man, with SitePal.

August 5, 2006

SitePalYou may have heard about the interactive animated avatars available from SitePal.  I heard of them ages ago while reading an article about the impending deluge of avatars on business websites in PCPlus magazine.   While browsing Technorati today I saw one of their banners was for Sitepal, and I hadn’t heard anything about them in a while so I decided to go and have a look at the site and see how far they have come since I first checked out the service.

I went to the section that was for creating your own animated character for your web service and began to fashion a human being.  Being a 20 year old guy I started with
an attractive looking female “news-reader” looking person. I then went ahead and went through the options of choosing her attire, makeup options, various physical stats like lip size, height, shoulder width, etc.  I then changed her hair to be slightly more extravagant and added a red hue to her hair, like red highlights.  Once I was satisfied with her appearance, I moved onto creating a personality and setting for her.  I placed her with a background that could be a news studio after trying several locales. I looked at her next to the Sidney Opera house, in a deserted meadow, but found myself back at the newsroom like background.

When it came time to choose what kind of voice she was to have, it required quite a bit more work.  I went through the available voices on the text to voice option and chose the best sounding, least synthesized voice I could find.  I thought she sounded best American, and with the voice of “Kate.” I applied it and used a test phrase to see how she would sound on the finished product. The following is the test set of phrases:

“I’m Claudia Richards, for CNN Headline News. Capitol Hill.”

“All Things Considered on NPR is brought to you by CISCO systems. NPR National Public Radio”

I tried these phrases on the character I had created and it was pretty close to dead on what I expected. She didn’t skip or talk to slowly, she actually sounded almost like a news reader or news correspondent.

Once I had created a female character that I was happy with, I wanted to try and create a male character in the same capacity, so I could use the same test phrases.  I tested the various male voices available and could only really tolerate two, and one of them was miles ahead of the other.  “Rich” sounded like a real person, so I got to work building him a human to take the voice.  The male character took a lot less work than the female and he was soon ready. I called him “Wil Richards” and just replaced the name in the above script.

For my final act with these characters I created, I took the female and gave her another line. She is to greet my brother and ask him how he is, through email.  I thought he would enjoy the character, especially since you can make them change languages – I typed in English and they were able to say what I wanted in any language I selected. 

Overall, SitePal is a great tool. I can see how businesses would love to have Claudia at the door.  It’s great technology and is certainly worth your checking out. I had fun and actually clocked an hour and a quarter messing around with the characters. Have fun!

One Response to “Creating Your Website’s Virtual Door-Man, with SitePal.”

  1. Charlie Says:

    We’re very excited about the positive review! While 70% of SitePal users use the Text-to-Speech, I still think using your own or a friends voice is much more authentic. Did you get a chance to try that out by phone or with a mic? Let me know if you would be interested in a free account (or Upgrade, I guess, in your case… we can work something out.) We’re working on a list of bloggers we’d like to get to try it for a couple of months. Its marketing, yes, but its also really helpful feedback as we look to improve features and usability.


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