Virtual Characters, CBT And Education

 

Avatars, Talking Web Characters and Virtual representatives are growing in popularity for one critical reason … “they work” …

Putting over complex products and services is much easier if done using the spoken word. visitors absorb the information easily in what the media industry calls the “lean back marketing” method. So if you are trying to make your site or media composition stand out from the crowd what better option is there than an audio visual virtual web character.

In an educational setting it’s a proven fact that information retention and concentration is enhanced when faced with compelling content. So what should you look for in your animated talking character. The Avatar Look: Is your talking web characters “attractive”, or does it look as though it has fallen out of the ugly tree, is it well crafted and generally compelling, or amateurish and poorly animated. Does it suit your image … is the quality something you are comfortable associating with.

Nice Avatar or Nasty Avatar: Many offerings look as though it has fallen out of the ugly tree, is the quality something you are comfortable being associated with your image. So it’s fair to say you’re talking virtual representative should be “attractive” to look at and have a compelling and convincing animation. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Lip-syncing is an Art and a Science: I cannot quite understand why anyone would find it acceptable to offer a virtual talking avatar product that lip-syncs badly, maybe they don’t think it’s important, or more likely, they don’t know how to do it, it’s the difference between understanding a fundamental and exacting science and saying “ah! shucks, that’ll do”, it won’t do! Our brains react in micro-seconds when faced with something that doesn’t look right! so a serious narration can turn into a comedy sketch. Does the virtual representatives lips stop moving when silent, does it shape the phonemes correctly or is it just a random selection of movements. This is a critical element in delivering a compelling narration, and should never be overlooked.

Virtual Character Ambient animation, Less is more: Animations during the narration should be kept to a minimum and be subtle, almost invisible. When watching a news broadcast you would feel uncomfortable is the compares eyes rolled from side to side and they exhibited strange and seemingly uncontrollable head movements. It is the content being delivered by the speaking avatar that is important, and all animations should be kept to a minimum to avoid distraction. Less is definitely more.

Talking Web Character – Not a robot! The quality of the narration is a key element in any media production, people would generally prefer an obvious amateur talking that the dreaded text to speech (TTS). Sometime in life a little care and attention to quality cannot be addressed with technology, and TTS is a prime example, what may seem like a great technology leave a great deal to be desired when you are the listener not the creator. Synthesized voices are great if you are using a Robot talking web character, but a definite no no if you are not. You will be surprised how inexpensive it can be to get professional voice over’s done, and in this day of high speed connections, there is a myriad of resources on the web to get them done. Most of us don’t like the sound of our own voice, so use a friend, or just bite the bullet and give it a go, at least you have full control of the delivery.

Modifying the look of your Virtual Representative: You want your visitors and users to build a rapport with your virtual representative, so changing its looks continually does not offer continuity to the visitor,, most of us like familiarity. Having a Virtual representative that the visitor can mess with only detracts from the message your Web compare is trying to put over.

Talking Avatar Integration & Hosting: Try to avoid, 3rd party hosting you have no control over their hosting facility, if you rely on your web compare and your service suppliers servers go down you have lost your “voice”, you are better off loosing your complete website that a single part. Try to avoid, monthly retainers and Pay-for-view contracts, again you have little to no control of the number of visitors that will come to your site, If you are on a Pay-for-view contract and suddenly get a higher level of visitation the costs of maintaining an virtual web character could be very expensive. . Ideally you want a solution that gives you total control of the final composition in an industry standard format; Flash, Flash Video or conventional Video, you can integrate it within your own media or web solution with no hidden charges or service risks.

Add a touch of flexibility: Flexibility can offer multiple uses as you become more adventurous with your virtual representatives so consider the following; The ability to be creative and design your production off-line; Can you get your hands on the native output in an industry standard format such as Flash, Flash Video, AVI etc so you could integrate your work into other environments such as Powerpoint, Camtasia, youTube, eBay etc, is there a good selection of compelling characters, care there additional composition add-ons such as clothing and backgrounds available. Are there any other services that can assist you from the supplier such as Voice-Overs, integration and bespoke services. Every little helps. Education & Training the compelling way: Imagine a PowerPoint presentation, facts, figures, graphs and images and there delivering the presentation, embedded within the screen a virtual tutor, available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. CBT has a new face, virtual assistants and guides integrate seamlessly into presentation media. Many formal education and training environments from the junior and pre-school nursery to the marble corridors of the corporate giants have seen the power of compelling media delivery. Literature assignment can be delivered in context and even brain teasing science and math education can become more precise when you have the help of a virtual tutor that has the power of “voice”. Un-attended education across the web or operated locally makes virtual education delivery highly effective and manageable. We know that retention is improved, we know that “lean back” education can be effortlessly absorbed and we know that there is nothing more powerful when it comes to delivering complex ideas or facts than the spoken word. The flexibility is endless. Education creators can concentrate on the subject matter and choose the ideal Virtual Tutor to assist in the process. Virtual Teachers can be available in different forms. Technology at its best, with a face and a purpose.

Summary: Doing any job badly is not a good idea, many people grab hold of a new technology and throw it at their audience with little thought. Implementing a bad Animated Virtual Representative is detrimental and could reflect on your business, take your time in the creation and don’t settle for second best. Remove the risk.

Education & Training the compelling way: Imagine a PowerPoint presentation, facts, figures, graphs and images and there delivering the presentation, embedded within the screen a virtual tutor, available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. CBT has a new face, virtual assistants and guides integrate seamlessly into presentation media. Many formal education and training environments from the junior and pre-school nursery to the marble corridors of the corporate giants have seen the power of compelling media delivery. Literature assignment can be delivered in context and even brain teasing science and math education can become more precise when you have the help of a virtual tutor that has the power of “voice”. Un-attended education across the web or operated locally makes virtual education delivery highly effective and manageable. We know that retention is improved, we know that “lean back” education can be effortlessly absorbed and we know that there is nothing more powerful when it comes to delivering complex ideas or facts than the spoken word. The flexibility is endless. Education creators can concentrate on the subject matter and choose the ideal Virtual Tutor to assist in the process. Virtual Teachers can be available in different forms. Technology at its best, with a face and a purpose.

Before you commit to any Virtual Avatar technology check the market out. For a limited period you can download a free version from AlterEgos. AlterEgos Homepage



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