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Babes Dominate, Virtually
by Katie Dean

3:00 a.m. May. 18, 2000 PDT


Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather all occupy the top spots in broadcast journalism. So why is Ananova, the first virtual newscaster, a woman?

"Research in general pointed us in the direction of the female," said Ananova's creative director Mark Spanton. "Both sexes respond to instruction and information better from a woman."


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Or is it really the manifestation of a male fantasy?

"It essentially comes down to the issue of power and control," said Michael Drapkin, chairman of the e-commerce program at Columbia University and founder of Drapkin Technology. "You can control what (the character) does and where it goes."

Drapkin added that because the engineering field is male-dominated, the people creating these characters usually are men.

In fact, the creators of Ananova reviewed hundreds of photos of models, as well as more ordinary looking people, to determine what makes an attractive female face.

"Let's not deny the fact that there's a stereotypical male fantasy in creating the perfect woman and being able to manipulate her however one wants," said San Francisco high-tech lawyer Brent Britton.

The perfect example of this is Lara Croft, a videogame character who has spawned numerous fan sites, merchandise, an arts festival, and an upcoming movie starring Angelina Jolie.

Thanks to Lara's success, Elite has developed a virtual models program, and new virtual characters are appearing on the Web more often for customer service as well as entertainment purposes.

Michael Grekin, director of marketing for Blaxxun Interactive, which provides the technology for making 3-D websites, said that he's not surprised that most characters are beautiful women.

"I would guess that's where our society is," Grekin said. "That's what appeals to most people."

But as the characters become more prevalent, the characters will be more diverse, Daniel Lewis of Animatek predicted.

"As these things become more prevalent, you'll see more of a trend" away from fantasy females, Lewis said.

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Related Wired Links:

It's a Virtual Revolution, People
May. 18, 2000

Lara Croft Does Egypt
Jan. 8, 2000

Real Agents for Virtual Models
Jul. 15, 1999

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