PITTSBURGH— Have you ever wondered why NASCAR racing appeals to such a vast audience? Or are you puzzled over the difference between a "crew" chief and a "car" chief? Now, thanks to technology developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), racing enthusiasts can direct their questions to FOX Sports.com on MSN and get a response from "NASCAR on FOX" analysts as if they were answering the question in person.
The "synthetic interview" technology developed at Carnegie Mellon, for the start of the NASCAR season, allows "NASCAR on FOX" race analysts Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and studio analyst Jeff Hammond to answer each individual's question with a video response, much as they would if engaged in a face-to-face conversation.
Everyone from the casual observer to the true fanatic can log on to http://msn.foxsports.com/askthepros, pick one of three analysts and ask him questions about NASCAR racing. The synthetic interview system then matches each question with hundreds of responses pre-recorded by the analysts and replays them. Fans can ask questions in whatever order they choose, making each interview unique.
"This is an exciting opportunity for us and the ETC and it has been a great experience for our team of ETC graduate students," said Scott Stevens, faculty advisor of the "Ask the Pros" ETC team. "The students have been able to participate in the development of cutting-edge, real-world entertainment working along side of the outstanding professionals at FOX Sports and FOXSports.com. We're eager to see how the large television audience responds to the technologies that are coming out of Carnegie Mellon." Stevens and Carnegie Mellon researcher Michael Christel invented the synthetic interview technology.
Viewers can use the questions from a menu bar or type their own. The analysts appear— standing in the middle of the screen— answering the submitted question.
Created for the celebration of the Daytona 500 race's 50th anniversary, the interactive program will continue to evolve as FOX Sports and FOXSports.com on MSN work with the ETC to have these experts available to answer any fan's burning questions about NASCAR racing.
"As a team, the project has given us valuable experience in working with a world-class media outlet," said Kelsey H. Livingston, a graduate student of ETC and producer of the "Ask the Pros" project.
About Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in engineering, computer science, robotics, business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovation. A small student-to-faculty ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 144-acre Pittsburgh campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities for the world-renowned programs in its College of Fine Arts. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif., and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe. For more, see www.cmu.edu.