By Terry Currier
Vox Proxy is a plug-in for PowerPoint. It uses 3D animated characters to enhance and make a PowerPoint presentation more entertaining and fun. One of the rules for a good presentation is not to have everything listed in the slide. The presenter must be part of the show and not have the audience have to read everything. The Vox Proxy characters become another presenter which can explain in more detail something on the slide. Vox Proxy uses Microsoft agents (the characters) providing them animation.
They include some really good tutorials for the user to go through before making a script. The script is actually a program to have the character do, or say what you want. The tutorials it will take about 50-60 minutes to go through them. After that work with the wizard for a while to get the feel of how it works. Also look at how the tutorials are set up.
With the script you choose the 3D character from a list of 27 men, women, animals and others. When you choose the character you also can choose the voice to be used. There is a list of 8 men and 2 women voices. The voices are not bad, but they do still have the sound of computer generation. You then can type what you want the character to do or say directly into the script, or work with the wizard. It uses a Text To Speech engine. You can also record what is to be said into a WAV file and have Vox Proxy “say” that.
AT&T has an enhanced Text To Speech program with better human sound. The cost of it is $60 which you can get at www.naturalvoices.com, or at the Vox Proxy website. It comes with 10 text to speech engines so you can have it speak in Spanish, German, French, British English, English, and one Indian-accent English voice.
Again the tutorials are not just a good learning place, but they are also good to watch and get ideas. The Script Wizard helps you to have the character say, do, move, or gesture. Each character has a list of moves, commands, gestures, and facial expressions. Within the script you can have it do some PowerPoint commands such as click, or go to the next slide. As part of the presentation you can put in commands to play a video file, read or show a Excel or Word file.
For Version 3 Right Seat Software said they added support for two new Microsoft products: the PowerPoint 2003 Viewer and Windows Media Player 9. I found I also had no problems with Windows Media Player 10. Windows Media Player 10 has support for MPEG 4so I like having it installed.
Some of the other enhancements;
Macro scripts can be created to do certain tasks or say certain things which you want to use more than once. Enhanced is the ability to embed macro scripts into PowerPoint presentation files or into other Vox Proxy script macro files. This embedding capability allows you to distribute self-contained presentations to other users without having to distribute any script macros separately. You can now use the RunMacro commands to run a script macro or presentation residing on the internet.
The online help system comes with context-sensitive help topics. Speaking of help, Right Seat installs a number of help files including a 157 page manual for Vox Proxy, but does not put a link in the start menu. Be sure to look in the Vox Proxy help folder.
The DisplayClock command displays a digital clock with optional timer. You can specify an alarm sound file. ScaleCharacters is a new command allowing you to specify an "authored" screen resolution (width). When the file plays, it will scale all characters up or down to match the size at the authored resolution. Input command provides a simple single-field input form. It allows you to ask the user for text data and assign it to a Vox Proxy variable. For example, you could ask for the user's name and then use the name in speech. Character animation pull-down lists now include a Print menu item so you can print a list of animations for that character.
CD Prep Enhancements
I was able to work with a CD Prep Edition and it was kind of fun creating a presentation and then copying it to a CD. The Prep program will help create a CD that will auto-start on an end-user's computer and run slide shows with Vox Proxy scripts without requiring the user to have first installed the Vox Proxy Player. The CD Prep program creates a "CD image" folder on your hard drive that contains all of the files and folders to be placed on the CD. It includes the necessary Vox Proxy Player files as well as the PowerPoint Viewer. You will use your CD-burner software to copy those files and folders to the CD. The CD Prep Wizard stepped me through the process of what I wanted and needed on the CD. CDs created with CD Prep can be configured to run automatically from the PowerPoint 2003 Viewer, bundled on the CD, so that it will run the same whether the user has PowerPoint or not. Once the CD is put in a computer it will install (if needed) the Microsoft Agents and speech components so the slide show will run.
Vox Proxy cost $199 as an option you can purchase a CD prep which allows users to burn the presentation to an auto-starting CD. That option will bring the total cost to $228.95. Upgrades to Version 3 from any previous version of Vox Proxy are available at a price of $99. If you already have the CD Prep edition, your upgrade is included in the $99 upgrade fee. If you do not have CD Prep and wish to upgrade to it, a CD Prep upgrade is available for a limited time for an additional $29.95 (normally $49.95).
Not for the casual user, but if you do a lot PowerPoint presentations this is a product that will help make them even better. www.voxproxy.com
Minimum System Requirements
PowerPoint® 2000 or 2002
128 MB RAM
150MB free disk space
Screen resolution: 800 x 600 minimum
300 MHz or faster processor
Microphone if you use VP speech recognition
From our April 2004 newsletter
Winners is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) is an international, platform-independent, nonprofit corporation (incorporated in Washington, DC) devoted to helping user groups throughout the world. Almost 400 user groups are members of APCUG. http://www.apcug.net/