Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Virtual DJ

I hesitated to write about this at all. But it's a first. Every innovation, (for better or worse), contributes to the cannon of radio. There is now, a radio station (of sorts) on air with a virtual DJ. The DJ is not a human being. It's a computer program, and a bit of CGI. I have not confirmed this story, with an air check so it may yet be a prank. But it's at least a totally plausible prank... so on with the dog & pony show.

San Antonio Community Radio has leased the HD2 channel of 91.7 of KRTU. They're branding it KROV which will be pretty confusing later since HD stations don't get assigned their own call signs. On their own website they describe the genesis of their station as follows:
"In March of 2008, over 200 San Antonians gathered at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Downtown Campus to discuss the loss of the city’s only urban contemporary radio station, KSJL. The gathering motivated people to organize a new station because the old KSJL was the only radio station in San Antonio that brought together newsmakers and community organizations to talk about issues important to San Antonio’s urban community.  From that community meeting, San Antonio Community Radio, Inc. 91.7- HD 2 (KROV) was born."
How this perceived need led to automation I can't even guess. But "Denise" is basically Max Headroom for radio. I should point out now that no one can actually listen to this station. KROV is an HD2 station that operates on the sub-channel of KRTU a college station that day-shares with KOOP. It is therefore only on air part time, on a part-time station...and by broadcasting in HD, it ensures that only about 1% of San Antonio can listen. her first day on air was August 26th and her shift was 1:00pm to 4:00 pm CST. (she is not listed on the current posted schedule). It must have been at least a little contrived, they even had the foresight to film it. See her demo reel below:

"Her" demo reel is as stiff as an automated phone message, but on the other hand, she's trouble to the HR department: no salary, no bennies, no maternity leave, never late for work, never shows up hung-over, she doesn't even need a desk, a mail slot or a 1099 form  This was inevitable. One we started voice tracking, this became the future. The only surprise for me most is that this was innovated by a small community group in San Antonio. Though it occurs to me now that the Clear Channel corporate headquarters is in San Antonio... coincidence?  Credit to MSNBC: for breaking the story first.

Regardless, the Max Headroom jokes are all-too accurate. What I want to know is if they have adequate legal footing to patent any part of the idea and potentially lock out major players from doing the same. Even a new use for existing software is potentially a patentable use. Denise is a modified personal assistant" from Guile Studios.More here and here.