Real Life Max Headroom Online
News At Seven is a project by students at Northwestern University's InfoLab. Their system is able to collect news and opinions from blogs, add in related video and images from Flickr, and all packaged and presented in news-like fashion by a 3D generated avatar.
There are an alarming number of similarities between this project and 80's pop culture icon Max Headroom. Contrary to what many believe, Max Headroom was not computer generated. He was realized through makeup, video effects and audio manipulation - but there it all relied on the improvisational skills of talented actor Matt Frewer. When not a virtual pitchman for Coke, Max starred in a cyber-punk TV series working in a newsroom.
It's easy to see the parallels between the two projects. Max was a complete personality recorded inside a mainframe, while News At Seven seeks to synthesize a personality by sampling content from several sources. Just imagining the collection and organization of all of this data and the production of a video through automation makes my head spin. Maybe someday they'll invite this friendly Retro Thing reporter over to their lab, seeing that I live some ten minutes away from the Northwestern campus. ;)
Is it the future? It's got a way to go to seem a little less creepy, but I can still see this technique coming in handy someday. Though you wouldn't want your virtual reporter relying only on the popularity of online stories being a metric for newsworthyness.
In any case, my favorite part of the whole project is that the reliance on streaming media means that the animation can be jerky and the audio can stutter - just like good ol' Max.