We have all seen the cute little Microsoft Agent Characters, but
what exactly are they and
how can you
use them in your ToolBook applications?
Microsoft® Agent is a set of programmable software services that supports
the presentation of interactive animated characters within the Microsoft
Windows® interface. Developers can use characters as interactive assistants
to introduce, guide, entertain, or otherwise enhance their Web pages or
applications in addition to the conventional use of windows, menus, and
Microsoft Agent enables software developers and Web authors to
incorporate a new form of user interaction, known as conversational
interfaces, that leverages natural aspects of human social
communication. In addition to mouse and keyboard input, Microsoft Agent
includes optional support for speech recognition so applications can respond
to voice commands. Characters can respond using synthesized speech, recorded
audio, or text in a cartoon word balloon.
The conversational interface approach facilitated by the Microsoft Agent
services does not replace conventional graphical user interface (GUI)
design. Instead, character interaction can be easily blended with the
conventional interface components such as windows, menus, and controls to
extend and enhance your application's interface.
There are lots of ways that you can use the MS Agent in your ToolBook project.
Many ToolBook Developers are already doing just that. Probably one of the
most well known uses of the agent in a ToolBook project is with the
Learning and Mastering ToolBook CD-ROM Training program. In that
program the Agent guides the learner through the training, introducing key
concepts and reminding the learner to complete interactive activities.
Because the Agent can also perform text to speech recognition some developers
are using the agent as a narrator instead of having professional audio recorded.
While text to speech engines still aren't human voice quality, they are getting
closer and are worth considering if you use a lot of audio in your programs.
There is an even bigger advantage if you translate your programs into other
languages. Because the agent reads the text, if you have the text
translated and then you get a text to speech engine in the language of the
translation, translations with audio will be easy to achieve.