Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Vox Proxy

You've just been given the job of "tweaking" a PowerPoint® presentation to make it more interesting. Currently, the slide show has the right information but going through it is a YAWN! It has colors, transition and sound but it still fails to grab the audience. Other than standing up there and doing a song and dance, what else is there?

To the rescue comes a copy of Vox Proxy™ by Right Seat Software. It's a PowerPoint® 2000 add-in that would "engage even the toughest crowd" (according to their marketing literature). Tall order! Let's put in though its paces and see what happens.

What is it?
Vox Proxy is an add-in for Microsoft's PowerPoint® that features talking 3D animated characters. It combines Microsoft Agent technology, which allows programming control, with PowerPoint using Microsoft's ActiveX® inter-application software technology.
The scripted characters can be programmed to appear on any slide to speak, move, and perform various animations. Vox Proxy comes with seventeen 3D animated characters (more available) and provides services through design affiliates to develop custom characters.

The characters capabilities:

Speech: Characters speak your scripted text using a text to-speech (TTS) engine. The character's mouth moves realistically while it speaks. You can record speech using a microphone and have the character speak in your own voice. Vox Proxy comes with American English and ten other languages. Additional languages are available from Microsoft and other vendors.

Animations: Each character performs an extensive list of animations. Simply right click on the character to view all selections. If desired, multiple characters can perform simultaneous animations.

Movement: You can script characters to move on the screen and control their speed of movement. Specify a character's location by simply dragging and dropping it on the slide. Each character moves using its own specially designed animations.

How well does it work?

The program enables the average PowerPoint® user to create interactive presentations with characters that speak, move, and gesture. That's all well and good, but most of us aren't programmers. The good news is with Vox Proxy you don't have to be.

We started by taking the tutorials included with the program. It gave demonstrations and some basic 'hands-on' of what the characters and program could do. Then we tried it….and did it.

It worked as simply as 'drag and drop' or right click and select. Within minutes we were putting together truly entertaining presentations of completely mundane subjects. You can select from the list of characters to find the one you feel will best fit the presentation.

As you can see, they are designed to add a lighter note to the presentation and we wouldn't necessarily recommend the product for reviews of the annual report to the Board. We can see it as a useful tool for interactive training. They each come with a repertoire of movements. The user has the ability to choreograph the movements of the character on each slide. You can also select more than one character at a time. It makes for an interesting tag-team effect.

What we like!

Two things particularly impressed us. First (as mentioned earlier) was the short learning curve. You can effectively use this product within 30 minutes of installation. The tutorials are excellent. They are well structured, clear, concise and pertinent to the skills you need to learn.

Second is the scriptwriting wizard. It allows you to easily add exactly what you want said and by whom. Adding speech is as simple as typing the word "say" followed by the dialogue. The wizard gives you a menu driven list to select which character(s) you want to appear, move and gesture.

What we would like to see improved!

One of the concerns we had with the product was the voices and articulation of the characters. They are a bit 'robotic'. The good news is that as we write, they have made the AT&T Natural Voices™ Speech Engine available as an add in (at additional cost). It does make for a marked improvement for more serious presentations.

Vox Proxy is not web enabled. This is a serious drawback as so much of what is done today is presented on the web. The company says it may be available in a future release.

The other minus is that it can't run on a Mac. This is because of the Microsoft Active-X® technology requirement is not available to the Mac folks.

Overall Rating

Given how easily the program allows a user to add animated characters with scripted dialogue and spice up a presentation or training tutorial, we give Vox Proxy 3 out of 4 bulbs. It's a pretty bright idea that lives up to its promises.