Cast your mind back to April of this year, and you may recall hearing about a "virtual newscaster" called Ananova being launched online. The animated character, who somewhat resembles video game heroine Lara Croft without the pony tail, still serves as the personality for the news web site of the same name. More than just a headline service, the Ananova site is a news search engine that provides coverage from about 1,500 different sources.
Of course, when you enter the site, it will be Ananova's face that you'll probably notice first. In the upper right hand corner of the home page, you can ask her to deliver newscasts about news, entertainment and sports by clicking on the appropriate links. Her delivery is very realistic, with facial expressions matching the tone of the story she's delivering.
Behind the scenes, in house technology is being used to convert selected stories into Ananova's speech. Stories are also tagged so that Ananova know if they are "happy" or "sad," for example, so her demeanor will match.
"If a story is tagged as being sad, then the movements that the virtual character makes will be chosen from a range of emotion that are more sad oriented," said Ananova operations director Andrew Burgess. "If the story is happy, then she might be more upbeat, looking up more."
Some might find Ananova a novelty, while others might love her, but she's only part of what the site offers. At the top of the home page, using the "Instant search" box, you can also perform a traditional news search that draws back stories that are gathered throughout the day from major news outlets. Note that this happens only if you select the "web" option. By default, Ananova instead shows its own stories written by editors from newswire reports.
Produced in the United Kingdom, Ananova is oriented more toward the UK but still is accessible to anyone interested in English-language news from around the world. North Americans should note that story dates are in dd/mm/yy format.
"It's very much news and information with a UK flavor, and we want to make sure we are doing that as well as well can, but it also works extremely well outside the UK" said Burgess. "Things like the animated newscaster have pulled in people from around the world."
Beyond news searching, you can also browse news stories by topic, using the directory structure at the bottom of the page. In addition, there are over 2,000 email alert topics to sign-up for. Use the Ananova Alerts link below to easily find the choices. Or, when viewing a story, select one of the options in the "Alerts By E-Mail" section that appears to the right of the article.
Overall, there's a lot for news hounds to like here. If you haven't been by, the site is well worth checking out -- whether you choose to get your news directly from Ananova herself or not.
Ananova WAP Demonstration
Describes Ananova's WAP news service, for those with mobile Internet access. UK football fans -- there's even an option to get goal-by-goal updates of major matches.
Ananova WAP version
If you have a WAP phone, access the WAP version via this URL.
Drawing on content from about 500 sources, this is a new and developing news search site. More sources of research and journal types are planned to be added soon.
News Search Engines
Other places to search for news across the web.