Feeds

Say hello to the virtual weatherman

METman

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Emboldened by the BBC's move from traditional flat weather maps to a so-called "virtual reality weather maps", tech boffins are scheming to replace flesh and blood presenters with animated images. Televirtual, a firm based in Norwich, the fictional home of naff presenter Alan Partridge, have developed CGI figures called METman and METgirl and are marketing the technology to stations who can't afford to pay 'real' broadcasters. The firm said it has has signed a deal with an unnamed niche station for the service.

Televirtual managing director Tim Child told the Eastern Daily Press that the technology had applications beyond weather forecasting but creating a virtual "Micheal Fish" had been chosen as an application because of its "relatively small knowledge base and its formulaic nature". We doubt the Met Office would agree with this assessment. Local forecasters quizzed by the Eastern Daily Press highlighted the value of real-life weather presenters.

Jim Dale, broadcaster and senior forecaster at the British Weather Services, told the paper that the public liked to be able to put a human face together with forecasts, if for no other reason than it gave viewers someone to blame if weather predictions turn out wrong. “Often there is a good story to tell behind the weather and it needs a good story teller,” he said.

Televirtual developed the technology in collaboration with British speech scientists and the BBC's weather graphic suppliers, Metra.

METman's entire performance is generated automatically from a few lines of text-based data issued as a meteorological summary, and accompanied by a weather map update. Text is then fed into a speech engine called METvoice which draws from a lexicon of appropriate phrases to formulate a weather forecast in narrative - rather than purely factual - form. Operating as part of Televirtual's RAP animation system, METvoice features an XML-style mark up language stream, triggering lip-synch animations, and "controlling and dictating the 3D animated METman' s moods, expressions, gestures, and screen positions". Child, a broadcaster and former TV newsman, was used as the template of the voice used by METman.

Televirtual also reckons the technology could also be applied to replace quiz show presenters with virtual presenters on virtual sets, slashing costs in the process. The firm reckons the biggest potential market of its technology might be in the home, through incorporation in set top boxes. So-called homecasters would be able to advise on TV viewing schedules, read the news and weather on demand, and trawl the internet on request. They might also be used to read incoming emails to the blind or sign to the deaf. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!
In space... no one can hear you're green...
Indian techies-in-training face down MAN-EATING LEOPARD - and WIN
Big cat causes big trouble at Mumbai college
Carlos: Slim your working week to just three days of toil
'Midas World' vision suggests you retire later, watch more tellie and buy more stuff
Yahoo! Japan! launches! service! for! the! dead!
If you're reading this email, I am no longer alive
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.