You 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!