News At Seven Brilliant, and Probably Useless

News At Seven is a brilliant piece of technology. The problem is that it is a useless product in its current form. And they used tax dollars to create it.

In an entirely automated process, News At Seven gathers news items from around the web and presents a newscast from an avatar:

News at Seven is an automatic system that crafts daily news shows. It finds the news you are interested in; edits it; finds relevant images, videos, and external opinions; and then presents it all using a virtual news team working in a virtual studio. News at Seven is a uniquely compelling experience that can present traditional news–augmented with supplemental images, videos, and opinions from the blogosphere—all without human intervention.

The end result is a newscast, with an avatar, and a computerized voice. The headline seems to be fairly relevant, and I’m interested in understanding how they determine the most newsworthy items of the day.

I’d say this would be useful for blind people, but the images and video is an integral part of the product. In its current form, it’s nice to look at once, but it is not an efficient way to consume news, for any demographic. Actually, perhaps SecondLife’rs would be into this.

The project was created by Northwestern University’s InfoLab and was apparently funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant no. 0535231). I can’t find any information on the NSF site about this particular grant, but I would be very interested to know how many tax dollars funded this.

Forgetting the interface, there may be some interesting uses of the technology that gathers and contextualizes the news bits. I’ve included a quick poll to see what readers think.

I think News At Seven is:

Total Votes: 911
Started: December 27, 2006

Update: The grant information is here. News At Seven has received $268,112 so far from the NSF.