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An Avatar as a Dealer Assistant

The prevalent term for digital assistants, online sales assistants, virtual sales assistants, intelligent conversational agents and so on is "avatar."

For those inspired, impressed or just plain curious about the technology, here is our primer on the subject.

If you do Internet searches on the various terms, you will find a lot of hype as corporate marketing departments have made a clear understanding difficult to achieve. It took a lot of time and research, but here are our conclusions:

1)  To be effective as our avatar, the technology tool had to be able to dynamically interoperate in accordance with the user's experience. A static, pre-programmed, non-aware, non-engaging avatar would be boring, useless and annoying.  As humans, we are social creatures.  To us, it was and is about the experience being a viable alternative to walking in to a showroom in the real world and being every bit as engaged, entertained and impressed.

2)  Digital animation products are really cool, but NOT suitable for the above purposes. There were some great programs, but their output generates fixed streaming animations. So while they could produce digital characters that were animated and spoke, the avatar could not be controlled dynamically by the program making them unsuitable.  Too bad, these were quite inexpensive and looked like fun with lots of stock characters available. Check out Reallusion and iClone if you are interested. They were our favorites.

3)  For the same reason as 2), the almighty "Flash" was eliminated.

4)  For artistists, the graphic design tools (i.e. 3D Studio Max, Maya, Poser, etc.) are reasonably plentiful and sites to sell already created character/accessory sets (turbosquid, cacheforce) seem fairly well established. For clothing and textures (materials and body shapes) we found Renderosity to be best.  However, at Ai-Dealer, we use Haptek's technology and each avatar company has its own "framing" system.  Framing matches up digital and graphically created images to the avatar shape, then allows for their manipulation.  Since as such resources are not exactly plentiful, Ai-Dealer formed a strategic relationship with Chalice Graphics for the benefit of its customers.

5)  Interactive avatars that are able to be programmed dynamically, speak in accordance with a programmable knowledge base (uses Text-To-Speech or TTS for short) were the clear winner, but now which one? Our review of available choices is below:

  • Haptek.  What can we say. These folks are our partner. Ai-Dealer has a world-wide, exclusive use of their technology for its vertical industry of automotive.
  • Oddcast appeared to have more "noise" associated with their market presence, but to us their avatar looked like animated clip art. We far and away preferred Haptek's lifelike technology.
  • Eidoserve had a similar clip art like look and feel. We thought it telling that the CEO video on their corporate site used flash.

If you find others or wish to provide feedback or add to this opinion, please send us an email to avatars@ then add to the address.