Vox Proxy 4.0, CD-ROM, 2007, Right Seat Software, Inc., $199-$249.
Support: user guide.
Vox Proxy is a clever, creative, and charming add-in program for Microsoft PowerPoint (2000 or newer) that allows you to use Microsoft Agent Technology to provide talking, animated characters in your slides. The characters can express social roles, emotions, and organized personalities that match learning goals, company brands, and other circumstances.
There are 29 different characters or personalities, each of which has a human-like presence that is altogether different than a static picture of a building or bar graph. The characters, in addition to talking in a variety of realistic sounding voices and accents, can make gestures while speaking. This ability to move, talk, and gesture allows the character to have an emotional impact on the audience.
The Scientist character, for example, looks like Albert Einstein. He--if I can call an animated character a "he"--could introduce a technical discussion on physics while nodding his head, look left, point to a graphic of the formula E=MC2, and then pause while you (the instructor) say something. The Scientist can then respond to your comment, wave good bye, and then leave the PowerPoint frame.
The character's ability to talk, gesture while speaking, and pause for a response simulates a conversation. The character and the instructor can engage in witty banter or a simple back-and-forth. This conversational rhythm draws the audience in while giving the presenter the uncanny feeling that he or she has created a sidekick or partner.
Vox Proxy uses a series of wizards that control what the character does and how it does it. Here's a sample of the abbreviated menus and the actions the character might take:
SCRIPT DESCRIPTION Show Janet at Left Center The character Janet appears left-center on the slide. Explain Janet gestures to explain. Say Welcome to Vox Proxy! She speaks ... Point45 She aims his pointer toward the upper-right (45-degree angle). Multiple characters can be controlled just as easily. Vox Proxy's smart defaults automatically take care of timing issues--characters waiting for each other or making sure PowerPoint's animations wait for the character). Yet, it provides simple options to allow simultaneous activities.
Vox Proxy characters speak using built-in TruVoice Text-to-Speech engines, or they can speak using your own recorded voice. Included with the standard TTS engine are...