Dunedin firm to launch web-based talking information kiosks

A Dunedin company is set to launch a range of web-based talking information kiosks within a few months.

A Dunedin company is set to launch a range of web-based talking information kiosks within a few months.

IBVT Networks has developed kiosks suitable for pharmacies, supermarkets, visitor information centres, or just giving directions in town centres.

It also plans to offer its talking software free to users.

Owner and designer Mike Hodges says non-talking kiosk prototypes have been installed at Dunedin and Invercargill airports. They consist of a fibreglass chassis and a computer.

The kiosks are designed as self-help and point of information devices; they offer touch screens, large, flat screens, full-screen video, keyboard and trackball, customised graphics and menus.

Later versions will feature 3D technology.

“We are developing a talking interface. We are building it with a character called NEVA, network virtual assistant,” he says.

Masterton-based Pixel Works is developing "Lingo” software for it to talk, while Wellington’s Boost New Media develops the Java-based NEVA system.

“We wanted to create the ability to talk and interact with people, so the website isn’t static. It will be able to talk and do functions like read email and websites to people,” says Hodges.

At present, IBVT Networks has a 2D version of NEVA, but is working with Macromedia, the US maker of Shockwave, to develop a 3D version.

These versions should be ready within three months, costing from about $7000.

Hodges expects “moderate” sales of 150 kiosks in the first year, but he hopes to “swamp” the market by offering his software free to home users, cybercafes and others.

IBVT Networks was formed six months ago, with Hodges as sole trader, relying on contractors to help with the kiosks and software.

Earlier this month the company received more than $6000 from the government’s Enterprise Award Scheme to help with development.

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