Alltel Wireless Lets Users Send Animated Talking Messages

Alltel Wireless, owner and operator of a wireless network that serves more than 13 million customers, today introduced Alltel Avatars, a 3D animated multimedia messaging service that allows users to send talking phone or email mesages to friends, family, and colleagues.

Alltel Avatars uses text-to-speech and animation technologies from Vidiator as part of its Xend 3D hosted platform. The service is available to any Alltel MMS subscriber with a video-enabled headset that can play 3GP files.  The MMS messages start at 99 cents each.

Users can choose from hundreds of  branded greeting cards or create their own personalized greetings, advertising campaigns, or corporate communications, complete with their own avatars, emoticons, personal audio tracks, and personal digital signatures. They can also create an animated image from their photos, combine it with their text or audio message, and send it to mobile devices or email, according to Kelly Kavanagh, an Alltel spokesperson.

Through text-to-speech capabilities an an application programming interface, users can also type in their own messages and have them spoken aloud by their avatars, according to Kavanagh.

Vidiator's Xend platform performs the functions related to content management, video/audio rendering, message formatting and encoding, application hosting, and message delivery.

The service, according to Alltel corporate communications, takes messaging beyond simple text. "The vast level of personalization offered to our customers via Alltel Avatars provides them with a new vehicle to express their emotions, style and personality," Craig Kirkland, vice president of messaging and voice services for Alltel Wireless, said in a statement.

Alltel already offers a voicemail-to-text service that lets subscribers view their voicemail messages as text," Kavanagh notes.
Officials at Vidiator expect the service to enable carriers to bridge the gap between SMS and new 'entertainment-focused' MMS messaging applications and advertising. "And for consumers, we think these type of services will change the way people communicate with their mobile devices by allowing them to richly express their emotions through voice, animation, and 3D like never before," said Connie Wong, Vidiator's CEO.

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