March 24, 2014
Last week the Tribune Company released a new iOS and Android app called Newsbeat, which plans to change how we consume our daily news by offering a more personalized podcast-like experience. Newsbeat has access to more than 7,000 sources from major newspapers to smaller blogs. Users can specify what types of stories and publications they are interested in, and the app will create a customized newscast by using Pandora-like artificial intelligence technology.
“Each personalized program is designed to last the length of your typical commute, and kicks off with weather and traffic information based on your current location,” reports Engadget. “Stories are read aloud using text-to-speech, with some important stories — think world news like the Malaysian Airlines disappearance — read by voice actors.”
Stories typically run 60-90 seconds, and can be skipped. Based on patterns of skipped stories, the app learns and will adapt for future offerings. A text version is available within the app and the original source articles are linked.
Engadget gave Newsbeat a test run: “We thought the experience sounded a lot like NPR — that is until the text-to-speech announcer kicks in. Tribune is using an ‘advanced text-to-speech technology’ that sounds a little more realistic than Siri, but still has a pretty solid computer-generated feel. There’s no denying it’s not a real person reading your news. That said, it’s a slightly awkward experience we might be willing to get used to if it manages to distract us from the boredom of another 30 minutes on the gym treadmill.”
Newsbeat is currently available as a free app via the App Store on iTunes or Google Play.