What a Character!

By Heather Baldwin

Imagine yourself at your next sales presentation. You’ve been talking about the various features in your line of office copiers and the audience is starting to get restless when suddenly an animated character pops on screen and, using gestures and sound, says, “Hey, Bob. You haven’t told them about the new FZ-56 zippy copy function!” “Oh yes,” you reply. “Thank you for reminding me.” You then discuss this new feature with an audience that is now reawakened and focused, anticipating the next appearance of your animated “assistant.”

Thanks to new technology from Right Seat Software, this futuristic-sounding scenario is starting to become a reality in sales presentations. Last September, the Golden, Colorado-based company rolled out Vox Proxy, a powerful script-writing program that allows you to use Microsoft Agent Technology’s 3-D talking animated characters in PowerPoint slide shows. Users are doing everything from sprinkling the characters into live presentations and cueing them to speak with a click of the mouse to putting together entire CD-ROM-based presentations – using their own voices or Vox Proxy’s text-to-speech engine – given by a character in the absence of a live person. One dentist, for instance, has created a CD-ROM where an animated character walks viewers through his cosmetic dentistry capabilities. A hardware company is creating a more interactive CD-ROM presentation where the character asks the viewer whether he would like more information on X product, Y product or Z product. The audience member’s spoken or keyed response determines the presentation’s direction.

“If you’re using PowerPoint in your presentations, this software helps you capture and hold the attention of the audience and improves the likelihood they’ll remember what you’re pitching,” says Tom Atkins, CEO of Right Seat Software and the brains behind the technology.

It works, says Jack Quinn, vice president and general manager of Spirits West, a Seattle-based distributor, wholesaler and broker of alcoholic beverages and an early user of Vox Proxy. He says employees and suppliers have been “delighted” by the technology, which the company is using for sales meetings, training and presentations to suppliers. “Most sales meetings are as serious as a heart attack and this lightens the mood a little,” he says. In live presentations, “We’ll get the character to say hello and welcome the supplier, then we might have him point out a big increase in business by having him point to a chart and say something like, ‘Wow! Look at these numbers!'”

Vox Proxy costs $199 for a single user; site license prices are quoted individually. The price includes everything needed to run the software and 17 animated characters, each with a range of 40 to more than 100 gestures, depending on the character. Additional characters can be pulled from the Internet or Right Seat Software can animate your company logo or other unique character. For more information, visit www.voxproxy.com.