Brian takes EDP into virtual newscasting

A newscaster with a difference will be appearing on the EDP's award-winning website. Brian is a computer-generated presenter created as part of a unique project pioneered by three Norwich companies and a national sports information service.

A newscaster with a difference will be appearing on the EDP's award-winning website from midday today.

Brian is a computer-generated presenter created as part of a unique project pioneered by three Norwich companies and a national sports information service.

Televirtual MediaLab, a pioneer of the use of virtual presenters and newscasters, has teamed up with Archant Norfolk, the parent company of the EDP, the UEA-based weather bureau WeatherQuest and PA Sport in London to create Newsfast - so called because it purports to be the fastest-ever way to deliver the latest information to people.

Using either broadband links or 3G-phone bandwidth, Newsfast delivers news, weather and sports news updates via Brian.

Patrick Prekopp, Archant Norfolk web editor, said: “This is an exciting, home-grown project which confirms Norwich as a growing centre of technological excellence and we, at Archant, are proud to be involved.

“It will be yet another way of accessing Norfolk news from our award-winning websites and we look forward to the results of the trial.”

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Unlike conventional broadcast newsmen, Brian, which stands for Believable RSS Interactive Avatar Newscaster, can access the latest breaking news, and his clients/customers do not have to wait for scheduled news, weather and sport bulletins.

That is because Brian connects automatically to news, weather and sport RSS (Rich Site Summary) sites on the internet, where news is often recorded first - long before it filters into TV and radio bulletins or in the latest editions of newspapers.

Brian then broadcasts direct to viewers' homes or phones.

Tim Child, director of Televirtual MediaLab, said: “Brian is the front end of a system that has taken about a year and a-half to develop.

“In the future, people will not be prepared to wait for urgent information, and with systems like this they won't have to”.

Information via Newsfast will be free on connection to the Newsfast web portal during the three to four months of the trial, although some users may find them-selves being asked to provide feedback on the service.

A mobile connection for the 3G service will be publicised shortly.

Jim Bacon, founder of WeatherQuest said: “With climate change likely to be a major factor in the 21st century, early and accurate weather warning systems will be a general priority. We look to learn a lot from this trial.”