Under a grant from the National Science Institute, computer scientists at Northwestern University's InfoLab
have created a virtual anchor person reading the day's news, a concept that is not entirely original. What is truly original about News at Seven
is that the folks at InfoLab also have replaced the traditionally human jobs of news editor and news producer with artificial intelligence. The lack of real-world reporters and editors is particularly ironic since Northwestern University also hosts one of the nation's most regarded journalism schools, the Medill School of Journalism
News at Seven pulls its news content from a variety of sources, then automatically combines the factual information into a unique virtual newscast. Ultimately, the designers hope that users will request custom topics, such as specific sports scores or international news, and see a custom newscast with that information. In addition to choosing the content, the user also will be able to customize the newscast's presentation, selecting the anchor person and the environment used in the broadcast--such as having a female reporting from the sidelines of an athletic field or a male reporter near the heart of a developing world crises.
In addition to creating an automated news anchor to deliver the news, News at Seven includes thematically relevant perspectives from the blogosphere. Here, too, News at Seven offer a very unique take on the traditional "man on the street" interview by randomly generating a street scene and having one of the passersby address the camera with his or her opinion.
Don't expect earth-shattering news for now. The site is still in development. Past stories have included the arrest of John Popper from Blues Traveler, for speeding and gun possession, and the death of Captain America. An archive is available on the News at Seven site.