Friday, December 04, 2009

The Tiger Woods accident simulated in 3D shows the future of newscasts

Spotted on Fake Steve Jobs: A video from a Taiwanese news program that depicts Tiger Woods' car crash using 3D animation (starts at 15 seconds in):
Some people may find the use of an anguished avatar (Woods' wife) in a machinima clip to be funny. Indeed, I suspect that this unusual format for reporting the news is the reason it was included in a well-known parody blog. But for years we've seen similar techniques used to simulate airplane crashes or the microscopic interactions between drugs and the human body -- why shouldn't computer-generated environments be used to depict a car crash or other commonplace events?

3D news applications are often experimental (see my 2006 post on NewsAtSeven) and when you do see simulations of events on U.S. news stations, they tend to be limited to the national networks that have the required staff and computing resources. But once machinima tools get easier/cheaper to use, and/or incorporate public mapping data and even models of building interiors, I expect that the use of news simulations will rise dramatically. They will will get more sophisticated, too, thanks to the geodata as well as near-photorealistic computer graphics.

There is also the possibility of bringing 3D anchors into the scene, and incorporating other types of metadata, as I described in a 2007 paper:
In the future, similar news applications could allow 3D avatars to be customized to mimic real news anchors (Walter Cronkite, Katie Couric, Jack Williams), other real people (someone's father, a favorite teacher, a politician), characters based on a set of self-selected attributes, or one's own avatar. The avatars might be seated in a simulated newsroom, or could be moved to a computer-generated environment that mirrors the real-life location where the news that he or she is describing took place. The environment might be based upon geotags and other metadata that were generated by the original reports and video footage. The news itself can also be fine-tuned, based on specific categories, locations, times, and keywords chosen by the viewer. I may choose to have the first half of my newscast consist of developments relating to the New York Stock Exchange in the previous 24 hours. For the second half, I may restrict my anchor to reading reports that mention "China" or "Beijing" in the lede and have accompanying video footage sourced from any clip taken in Beijing or Shanghai within the past six hours. Detailed metadata would be crucial to creating such a report.
So, don't assume that the 20th century model used by newscasts today to report recent events -- handsome people in suits  reading from teleprompters and rolling clips of prerecorded video -- will hold true in the years to come. We'll be seeing more 3D simulations, animations, and avatars, as well as an increased use of Internet-based data sources to get an understanding of the news.


  1. You understand that the unique (and unsettling) characteristic of this "simulation" is that is re-creates NOTHING but an aggregation of unsubstantiated rumors. Networks in the US have used 3D to some extent, but they go to the (essential) extra step of making sure their animation is as factually-based as possible. This is off the wall because it's basically made-up...a fairy tale. News involves facts. If the facts don't exist, you can't just make them up, no matter how whizzy your tech is.

  2. jcburns: My point was to highlight how this technology can be used to depict news events. Text, video, and photographs can also be used to describe an event, but there's a difference between what you read in The National Enquirer or seen on Fox News, vs. what is covered by more reputable news organizations. Readers know to look out for tabloid exaggerations, propaganda/spin campaigns, and false or unverified claims, no matter what format is used.



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