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Cultural Agents
and Avatars
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Avatars, Personalisation and the Heritage Sector
Brief Background
The combination of avatar and agent technologies with database storage of behaviours,
textures, skins, and voice technologies means that avatars are becoming more easily
re-purposable and less demanding on the systems that deliver them. Real-time online
delivery, however, may remain a problem until fast Internet connections become the
worldwide rule rather than the exception.
This section's case studies provide an insight into the uses of avatars in three very
different arenas. SEONAID (the Scottish Executive Online News and Information
Distributor) was conceived as an outreach tool for getting younger citizens interested
in the workings of their government.The avatar approach has proved such a hit that
Seonaid is now being adapted as the virtual face of the Scottish Executive a form of
`branding', in advertising-speak.The Peranakans Project deals with culture, history and
education, with the avatar guide being used as an immediate, visual and identifiable
conduit for learning about different ways of life.The EC-funded TOURBOT Project
combines avatars and robots to allow visiting of museums with surprising results.
The scenarios that follow trace the uses of agents and avatars from home television sets
to mobile devices and out into the wider world, with a dance academy imagined that uses
avatars both as an instructional aid and as a means for preservation.
Case Studies
SEONAID Scottish Executive Online News and Information Distributor
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Outreach is always tricky, particularly when an organisation is attempting to reach out
to groups that traditionally lack an interest in the material or business in question.This is
seldom truer than in introducing young people to the workings of government.The
Scottish Executive
,
110
the devolved government body for Scotland, was seeking to do
just this. Responsible for most of the issues of day-to-day concern to the people of
Scotland, such as health, education, justice, rural affairs, and transport, the Executive
delivers large amounts of information, much of it via its Web site. Its aim is to keep citi-
zens informed in a timely and accurate fashion.The Executive's Web managers seek ways
of presenting information to diverse groups of people, ways which are appealing, make
information discovery and use easier, and are relevant.
The Executive launched the `Modernising Government' programme to improve the
quality and accessibility of public information and services through technology.
111
The
Executive wished to add a more human dimension to the electronic interaction between
citizens and government, so that technology engaged rather than distanced the citizen.
109 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/pages/news/junior/introducing_seonaid.aspx.This case study is based on
answers to an e-mail questionnaire completed by Jeff Marksz of DA Group and Stephanie Baldwin of the
Scottish Executive in November 2003. Other sources are acknowledged in footnotes.
110 http://www.scotland.gov.uk
111 http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S1/whats_happening/research/pdf_subj_maps/smda00-09.pdf
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