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CNN Today

Virtual Anchor: Ananova Set for Launch

Aired April 18, 2000 - 1:56 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Apparently, it has become necessary for me, in the technological schemes of things, to point out that Natalie Allen and I are...

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Ouch.

WATERS: ... real people.

ALLEN: Yes, we are. But starting tomorrow, not all news anchors will be able to make that statement.

CNN's Richard Blystone, who is also real, we think, reports on Ananova, billed at the Internet's first virtual newscaster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANANOVA: I can't tell you how much I've looked forward to this moment. I've been locked in the room for 12 months with nothing but geeks and techies for company.

RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ananova displays the personality her creators hope will captivate 21st century news consumers.

MARK HIRD, PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, ANANOVA.COM: It's important that Ananova becomes someone who you warm to and who you trust.

ANANOVA: This morning, I am keeping a close watch on the London stock market.

BLYSTONE: The age, 28, the gender, the features, and the mid- Atlantic accent all carefully calculated to make all kinds of men and women want to access her. What turns her on? Text.

Ananova's computer scans incoming stories and orders up syllables and inflection, lest she smile at a sad story.

HIRD: The producers press that button. It then embeds into the text some emotions and some actions associated with that information that they've given them.

BLYSTONE: This may be a smile or a virtual gas pain, but Ananova's a work in progress.

ANANOVA: Every day, I feel slightly more human. OK, I have a little way to go, but you should have seen me before they fixed this.

BLYSTONE: There's less of Ananova on-screen than there is of most anchors. That's because soon she'll have to fit on to your telephone.

VIVIAN ADSHEAD, COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, ANANOVA.COM: Yes, she does have a body, and we will be getting to see that in due course.

BLYSTONE: News' newest talking head soon will model designer fashions. She'll guide you around the Internet. You'll be able to talk with her, order tickets or flowers.

HIRD: As our personalization technology develops, the technology will be there for you to say, I want her with a Welsh accent, with blonde hair.

BLYSTONE: But what kind of people will want to bond with an electronic puppet? Busy people, they say.

ADSHEAD: She actually helps you cut through the clutter of the Internet.

BLYSTONE: But liking and trust?

ADSHEAD: These are things that you just can't program in. People have to use Ananova and get to know her, and then start to build a relationship with her.

BLYSTONE (on camera): As it happens, now playing to packed houses in London is a futuristic comedy called "Comic Potential."

It's about a robot actress whose circuits go all funny and she starts mocking her owners and falling in love.

(voice-over): Could that happen to Ananova?

ADSHEAD: With all this technology and artificial intelligence coming ahead, who knows?

BLYSTONE: If you do get out of line, Ananova, beware, the erase button, they could always come up with a virtual Leonardo DiCaprio.

Richard Blystone, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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