Some of you may be familiar with CMT’s (that’s Country Music Television for those of you that don’t know) once popular show called “Trick my Truck” whereby an innocent semi-truck owner is surprised by a complete truck makeover: which got me thinking about tricking out training. While some may never think of this, or the makeover of training may only happen when a new decision maker joins the training efforts… what about doing it to deliver the best possible training to employees/ students and making your training material “sticky?” So you may be thinking “My training works…it may just be a little (or lot) outdated.” Or on the other hand, you may be seeing dollar signs because a lot of training types on the market today take a lot of money to get off the ground and even more money to update and keep everything current. Well one thing you may consider is the possibility of taking an existing training program and transforming it into a completely different training type. Oh yeah- Visual Purple can do that. View this short clip to see an e-learning training that we transformed into a private virtual world environment, complete with Non-Player Characters.
By Rudy Helm, Audio and Quality Assurance Tech, Visual Purple, LLC.
At the end of my previous discussion on NPC Voice-over production, I promised that I would follow up with a blog about what it might take to try to get a synthetic voice to be funny. Remember. We’re talking about NPCs (Non Player Characters), where otherwise playable characters are typically represented by professional voice-talent. I will provide you with samples as we roll along of course, as in tutorial fashion, but with the disclaimer that this is just one approach to this end, as there are likely other useful techniques that could be considered.
Ok, I sense you are protesting, how can a robot out ‘funny’ a performance by a professional voice-talent? I am not at all suggesting that a synthetic voice-actor can win such a contest. But if you are faced with options, and if this is the option you choose, you really want to come up with workable solutions.
What are the resources?
There are a number of synthetic voice vendors available. One obvious task is to choose one. A simple Internet search can help you solve that problem. For purposes of this discussion we will utilize 3rd-party software control mechanisms to effect voice properties. In this tutorial we’ll use a stand-alone audio editor along with a non-linear editor (NLE), but the same task almost certainly can be substituted by a digital audio workstation (DAW) of your choice. The audio editor might be replaced with XML controls if this is your favorite way to effect voice pitch and tempo, etc. However, I think it would be extremely tedious to try to deploy markup languages as a substitute for a DAW. By the end of this writing I bet you will probably agree with me. Please refer to my earlier post, When Your Voice-actor is a Robot, about some detail on resources. And then there is that last very important asset to have. Someone who is funny!
Here at Visual Purple, we are fortunate to have a gentleman who is a very funny guy. And for this experiment it makes for a very lucky day! So, you may be thinking, why are we talking about working with a funny human? Isn’t this topic about having a funny robot? Well, yes is the answer to that — but our funny human (Let’s call him John) will serve as a model for our robot.
The short answer is, we will import audio clips of the funny human into our DAW, and then we will import audio clips of the synthetic voice and make it emulate the human’s speech patterns.
Ok, in this project our goal is to make some humorous fish voices. You see, we have a scene in one our products where someone at a bar can stand and stare at a fish tank. As the fish swim by, and if the avatar is situated close enough to the fish tank, the fish might begin to say wise cracks to the, uh, fish admirer. This is an ‘Easter egg’ where fun is poked at the avatar, possibly insinuating that he has had a bit too much to drink. And to achieve our goal, we need to mode the synthetic voice clip to try to emulate the comedic timing as expressed in the human model.
Let’s do it!
So let’s start the process by importing into our DAW an audio clip that John, the funny human recorded for us (Figure 1).
Next, Listen to John’s original model for reference. The script: “Last week it was a lawyer’s convention. I never seen so many sharks!” We follow that by importing a correlating audio clip from the synthetic voice (Figure 2).
Without doing anything further at this stage, we can easily see that the graphical sound ‘blobs’ don’t match. So, before we move on, have a Listen at the robot’s recording. Notice that this clip has already been treated with pitch transposition. (For a discussion on ways to do that, please refer to my earlier post, When Your Voice-actor is a Robot.) Our intent was to get cartoon-y voices, so we started with a female TTS voice and then modified her pitch characteristics.
Now, to make the robot emulate John’s comedic speech patterns, we need to edit the clip’s timelines so that the graphical sound ‘blobs’ do match. Figure 3 illustrates an example:
In Figure 3’s example we see only the first two words of the script (“Last week…”). Listen to how the TTS’s utterance of the word ‘week’ occurs earlier in the timeline than does John’s blob of the same word. Close — but the timing is just not right is it? Note that we need to create a split point (the vertical line represents this) just before the TTS’ blob. Doing this enables us to separate the words and move them as we wish on the timeline (see Figure 4).
Now, Listen to both voices speak those two words in sync. (…to be continued)
Visual Purple’s own Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO, will be on hand at the Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum (LEEF) to present a virtual world case study on Winning in Wireless: Year 1 on Thursday, June 18th from 2 to 4 pm.
Examine the Transformation of a CBT into a Virtual World Training Environment: Has your company examined virtual world training solutions? The ease of use, authenticity, and efficacy of Virtual World training can be complemented by existing CBT training programs within an organization or designed from the ground up. Join Visual Purple as they highlight best practices and examine a case study of a successful CBT transformed into a virtual world training platform. By utilizing a virtual world as a key business training tool, companies are now able to show the invaluable resources that virtual world training is able to provide the organization at a lower cost than previous training solutions. This case study will further examine best practices and clearly demonstrate real business results.
Don’t forget to register now for The Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum (LEEF): Games & Simulations for Performance
June 18-19 Harrisburg University, Harrisburg, PA
Join Visual Purple, Cisco, RWD, Experience Point, Humentum and learning professionals from around the country for 2-packed days of interactive and mind-stretching sessions!
The Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum (LEEF) is an interactive professional development event that will showcase games, simulations and virtual worlds used for learning and performance. The program uses keynotes, in-depth case studies and workshops to explore the benefits of, and business case for these types of eLearning solutions.
Participants will learn from game, simulation and virtual world designers and developers who are:
– Designing eLearning programs that are interactive and immersive
– Improving outcomes and effectiveness of education and training projects
– Integrating entertainment and gaming principles for learning and performance
– Exploring best practices for evaluating and measuring the ROI from games and simulations
Visual Purple Wins Silver & Bronze at the 8th Annual Horizon Interactive Awards Competition
The Horizon Interactive Awards, a leading international interactive media awards competition, announced the 2009 award winners to highlight this year’s “best of the best” in interactive media production.
Visual Purple was recognized for their excellence with a Silver award for the Training Category ICS: 3-Part Training Series.
Visual Purple was also recognized for their excellence with a Bronze award for the Training Category for the Winning in Wireless: Virtual World Simulation.
The eighth annual, international competition saw just over 2000 entries from 32 countries around world including: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, China, Croatia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Martinique, Mexico, Oman, New Zealand, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan, Turkey, and nearly all 50 of the United States of America. An international panel of judges, consisting of industry professionals with diverse backgrounds, as well as an end user panel evaluated 19 different categories ranging from online advertising to video games. The 2009 winning entries showcase the industry’s best interactive media solutions including web sites, CDs and DVDs, online ads, video and more.
“The 2009 competition was an all new level for the competition,” said Mike Sauce – Founder of the Horizon Interactive Awards. ”The overall quality of entries was far and away the best we have ever had and judging was very competitive. Year after year, we are amazed at the level of creativity and overall technical excellence of the entries that are recognized by the competition. They truly are the best of the best!“
About the Horizon Interactive Awards
In its 8th year, the Horizon Interactive Awards was created to recognize excellence in interactive media production worldwide. Since 2001, the competition has received many thousands of entries from countries around the world and nearly all 50 US States. Each year, those entries are narrowed down to the best of the best to be recognized and promoted on and international stage for their excellence. The judging process involves a Horizon Interactive Awards advisory panel, end user panel and a worldwide panel of judges consisting of industry professionals. Winning entries are dubbed the “best of the best” in the interactive media industry.
Cisco has joined the list of innovative organizations like Visual Purple that will be conducting game, simulation and virtual world case studies at LEEF. Read about all the presenters including ACS Learning Services, Enspire Learning, ExperiencePoint, Humentum, NexLearn, ViaVivo, Visual Purple and others at LEEF.
Register by Monday May 18 to take advantage of the early registration discount!
Join the online discussion on LinkedIn
Learn more at www.leef2009.net. Email LEEF@HarrisburgU.net, or call 717.901.5167 for more information.
The schedule for the two-day event, set for June 18-19, will include more than a dozen case study presentations that explore and analyze the use of games, simulations, virtual worlds and console games for learning and performance. With titles ranging from Consultative Sales in a Virtual World to Developing Entrepreneurship with Serious Games, each 2-hour case study session will include a high-level overview of the project, hands-on engagement, and group analysis of how to apply the project’s best practices and lessons learned.
Featured Case Studies include:
ACS Learning Services—Consultative Sales in a Virtual World;
Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT Laboratory),
University of Maryland – I-95 Corridor Coalition Virtual Incident Management Training;
Cisco – Cisco Certification Exam Study Games;
US Army War College—Military Global Distribution Game;
ViaVivo, Inc.—Developing Entrepreneurship with Serious Games
University of Maryland University College—Criminal Justice Simulations;
NexLearn, LLC—Essential Leadership Simulation Series;
Visual Purple, LLC—Winning in Wireless, CEO Simulation in a Virtual World;
Deep End Interactive—Winds of Orbis: An Active-Adventure;
Enspire Learning—Celebrity Calamity: Teaching Personal Finance through Games;
ExperiencePoint—Lakeview Change Management Simulation;
Humentum—US Sales and Marketing Policy Simulation;
JPL – Health Education Games;
“As it becomes more apparent that active, engaging and contextual learning solutions result in improved performance; games, simulations and virtual worlds will become more common in corporate learning and K-16 education. It’s all about results and games and simulations are delivering as organizations and individuals look to get the most learning and performance gain out of their training and education investments,” says Andy Petroski, Director of Learning Technologies and Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and a co-coordinator of the event.
“As organizations move to using games, simulations and virtual worlds for learning they should consider learning from others that have gone ahead of them. Organizations will be able to ease adaptation by learning from the experiences of others, and especially by learning from others that have been achieving positive results with games, simulations and virtual worlds. The case study presenters at LEEF are some of the best!”
He adds, “The LEEF is unlike many other professional development events that provide a high-level overview of a large variety of topics. The two-hour session format will allow participants to gain in-depth knowledge about presenters’ projects and get hands-on experience with the projects.”
Visual Purple is excited to announce that we will be attending the Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum (LEEF) in June to present Winning in Wireless, CEO Simulation in a virtual world case study.
See Visual Purple’s persistent virtual world, a proprietary combination of powerful tools and techniques, in action. Visual Purple’s case study will focus on converting and applying conventional computer-based training (CBT) into a virtual world.
The project centers on practicing management decision making skills in a virtual world. By successfully navigating challenges in the virtual world, the learner gains critical insight and knowledge about the role of management and why decision making, strategic and financial forecasting and adherence to company vision, values and mission is important. The case study will provide insight into best practices for converting conventional CBT to a virtual world environment and illustrate how key skills can be taught while simultaneously providing functional cross-training and developing understanding of the roles and skills of others within an organization.
Visual Purple’s persistent virtual world provides a private and secure, asynchronous environment with advanced questing. There are options for browser-based deployment, multi-player deployment, behavioral and synthetic intelligence implementation and LTMS configuration for tracking and/or deployment.
Join Visual Purple as they outline their process and practices and demonstrate a case study about improving managerial situational awareness for decision making aligned with corporate vision, objectives and strategy.
So, we are finally LIVE with the Winning in Wireless:Year 1! What is this virtual world you may ask?…Visual Purple partnered with BTS and took an existing Computer-Based Training (CBT) course and transmogrified it into a virtual world simulation. Not the whole enchilada but more than anticipated. Pretty cool, huh? The Visual Purple technologists have been working technology and creative approaches for months and months separating the wheat from the chaff until things really started to click. The virtual world sim depicts an eager, newly hired CEO of a wireless telecom company trying to find his way, complete with computer-generated voice for some of the non-player characters (NPC’s). No strings attached: no forms to fill out or marketing hurdles. Just click the download button and go.
Winning in Wireless: Year 1 does require a download, a browser-based experience is a cool option for deployment in the Enterprise space.
We have also compiled a short trailer showing the comparison of CBT to the virtual world transformation.