Answer

You can sign up and use the Character Builder on a trial basis at no cost, but an active subscription is required to publish your modules for use on the web. The subscription is USD $10 per month. Annual subscribers receive a 20% discount, for a total of $96 per year. A few users have an extremely high distribution volume or have dynamic media needs that exceed what can be offered in our standard subscription. These users will be asked to enter a Variable Rate plan that allows us to pass on some of the usage-dependent infrastructure costs unique to these scenarios. Please see questions 7 and 17 for more details. There are no other usage or copyright fees associated with a Character Builder account. You do not need a Character API account if you are just using the Character Builder.

For developers, the Character API is billed per-use, at $0.007 per call. Billing occurs monthly and there is no minimum. The charge normally appears on your monthly AWS bill, if you enroll through our Amazon AWS Marketplace partner. You can cache the resulting animation, which can result in significant savings for some types of applications. You do not need a Character Builder account if you are just using the Character API.

Answer

The Character Builder download (available for Windows XP and higher) is still supported for registered users. You can download it here. Please contact support@mediasemantics.com for support on the Windows application, including lost keycodes, Character and Addon packs, and Speech Pack licensing.

If you are a user of the Windows application, you will find that the new service trades off some flexibility for greater simplicity and ease-of-use. We think you will like the improvements. To help with the transition, we are offering a complimentary one-year subscription for registered users of the download version. Please contact sales@mediasemantics.com for details.

Answer

Unfortunately the Character Builder service is different enough from the Windows application that a simple upgrade path is not possible. We recommend that you continue to use the downloadable version for those projects that were created in that environment.

The Character Builder service does not have strict feature parity with the Charater Builder download. In particular the service does not currently have support for text bubbles, photofit characters, or Flash and video formats. Some of these features are planned for a future release, but others, such as support for Flash, will not be made available online.

Answer

The Character Builder service is built on top of the Character API. If you are a content developer or a web developer in need of a drop-in character, then you will find the Character Builder service to be rich in features and easy to use.

The Character API provides all the raw animation for modules created in Character Builder, and is available for developers who need to go beyond the features of the Character Builder.

Answer

When you have finished creating and previewing your module, select it in your Modules tab and press Publish. You will be provided with a small piece of HTML code that you can insert into your existing website or online course. Your users will see and interact with your module as if it were part of your own site.

Whenever you need to change your module, simply login to the Character Builder service. You can make changes to a module and preview them, but your users will continue to see the old version until you press the Publish button again. (If you change a module whilei> it is being viewed by a user, then they will continue to see with the old version until they move to a new page or refresh the current page.)

Answer

No. Your users will never see any ads or logos in the space occupied by a module.

Answer

In general, applications involving dynamic speech should use the Character API. That said, the Agent module supports a dynamicPlay() API that allows arbitrary text to spoken via a simple JavaScript API. But there is a catch.

An Agent module normally has multiple messages, and a given message can be played using the play() API by passing the message name as an argument. It is rather like pulling strings on a puppet. The dynamicPlay() API takes an arbitrary string of text as an argument (255 characters maximum), and speaks that text, while playing an optional animation. Dynamic play requests can be queued up, and even mixed with regular play requests, to speak longer runs of text.

However, because the compute resources for this feature depend so heavily on usage, the dynamicPlay() API is TURNED OFF by default. To turn it on for your account, we ask that you enter a Variable Rate agreement. In addition to the subscription, Variable Rate customers will be invoiced periodically (as frequently as once per month) for any voice, compute, and storage costs associated with the actual usage of the dynamic play API. If the variable rate charge for a month is less than $25 then it gets rolled into the next month. The cost is reasonable, but is generally higher than what can be achieved by rolling your own dynamic speech application using the Character API and other cloud services. Your actual cost also depends greatly on how well your audio "caches". For example a newscaster application might repeat the same audio to a large number of users, so it has a high cache hit rate and a lower overall resource cost. We pass these savings on to you.

Answer

A valid Character Builder subscription is required in order for your users to see your published modules. If a subscription lapses, you will typically see an empty space within your website where your module would normally appear. Reinstating the subscription will instantly restore the module. We will not explicity close a lapsed account unless we are asked to do so through a request to support.

For Character API users, there is no subscription, and you are simply billed at the end of each month for the number of API calls incurred that month.

Answer

The stock characters available in the Character Builder and API products are available royalty-free for your convenience. The license does state the following:

User further agrees to not use the Character Builder service (or any part or result thereof) in connection with any unlawful, offensive, obscene, pornographic, harassing, libelous or otherwise inappropriate content, material or purpose.
In other words, we reserve the right to end the agreement if we feel that your use of the characters is inappropriate, and might have a negative impact on the value of those characters to other clients, and of the Character Builder brand as a whole.

Answer

While the Character Builder interface is English, content can be created in any language. For recorded audio, the lip-sync component is language-independent, and has been tested with languages such as French, German, Spanish, and Japanese. High quality Text-to-Speech engines are also available for several foreign languages, including Spanish and French.

Answer

In the Character API, actions are specified using programmatic (XML) tags. You can think of these actions as building blocks that can be combined to produce a variety of actual animation. For example <lookright/> and <gestureright/> can be combined to produce an action in which a character looks (stage) right while also gesturing (stage) right. The Character Builder is built on top of the Character API. It includes all the same characters, but offers a simpler action dropdown that map to one or more of these building blocks, depending on the character. Think of it as specifying the intent of the action rather than the details. Note that in the Character Builder, "left" and "right" also flip to the user's perspective, so if the character is located to the right of the content, then you will choose a Look Left action to make it glance at the content.

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The Character Builder lets you upload images and audio files, as well as scripts and other configuration information. While we take great care to keep the integrity of your data, but we are able to provide backup points or perform rollbacks. In other words, if you delete a file it is removed from the network, and we are not able to restore it. For this reason we recommend that you keep a local version of your media files, and that you export important modules to the .zip format and back these up separately.

Character API users never need to upload content, since each API call fully specifies the inputs and outputs for the operation.

Answer

Most of our Cartoon and Illustrated Head characters can be recolored directly within the Character Builder. You can also use character addons that alter a character's appearance. Please note that recoloring and addon features are currently only available in the Character API. They will be coming to the Character Builder soon.

We also work with select clients to provide custom characters and addons that are available only on your account. A custom character becomes your own unique, brandable property that can help further differentiate your product or service.

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Absolutely. One thing to note however is that most modules use audio, and that all mobile browsers (as well as newer versions of desktop browsers) employ a "one touch" rule, meaning that your user needs to explicitly interact with a module (by pressing a button for example) in order for it to play any sound. This rule is implemented by browsers to prevent unwanted audio, such as ads, from auto-playing. While they can't get around the "one touch" rule, Character Builder modules include features to make the limitation as natural and unobtrusive as possible.

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Not at the moment. Because each module downloads only what it needs, as it needs it, it is not possible to view them offline. They will typically appear as a blank area where the module would normally appear.

The Character Builder and the Character API support lip-syncing with either Text-to-Speech (TTS) or recorded audio. High-quality TTS audio now comes standard with the Character Builder, and it's ease of use and convenience make it a common choice.

The Character Builder also lets you upload audio files in mp3 format. You can record your own, or you can use a service such as Voice123 to locate and purchase voice talent over the web.

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In general you will find our characters to be very bandwidth-efficient. Because they are interactive, Character Builder modules do not use video. Instead they are assembled using "texture images" that are downloaded as needed from our Content Delivery Network (CDN), and then cached locally for reuse.

You may notice slight delays when you author new content, but this slowness disappears as your users begin to view it. This is because we use an aggressive caching strategy, based on Amazon AWS CloudFront, in order to make your module load quickly, and run with a minimum of network-incurred pauses.

There is a caveat on the low $10 per month pricing for users with a very large distribution. If your account has a large number of monthly hits then we will ask you to enter a Variable Rate agreement that allows us to pass on the CDN costs. In addition to the subscription, Variable Rate customers will be invoiced periodically (as frequently as once per month) for CDN costs that exceed a certain monthly minimum. If the variable rate charge for a month is less than $25 then it gets rolled into the next month.

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Yes. A single subscription lets you publish modules to multiple sites. You can also lock your content to a specific domain, to make it impossible for someone to copy the HTML code on your site and place it on their own.

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No. At this time, each account is associated with a specific user. You can only be logged in on one device at a time. You can of course delegate a task to another person by sharing your credentials with that person, however any support requests must come from the registered user of the account.

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The Character Builder HTML code that you insert in your website includes a customer id and a module id only, so there is nothing that ties your publicly-available content to your name or email address.

You should carefully guard your Character Builder login credentials, since anyone with those credentials could alter or delete your module.

You can create modules of a confidential nature, but you should embed them on pages that are accessible only to logged-in users. You should also lock confidential modules to your domain (see the Account tab). This way if an authorized (but malicious) user gains access to your HTML embed code, this code will still not be viewable on another domain.

The Character Builder support team is able to access your content, but we do so only upon request, in order to respond to support issues.

Accounts that have never had a valid subsription are considered to be trial accounts, and may be closed at any time. However an account is NOT closed if a subscription has lapsed. To close an account please contact support, at which point all uploaded files and data associated with your account will be erased.

Answer

At Media Semantics our focus is on strengthening your brand, so we never force our own brand upon your audience. That said, free or discounted products can sometimes be obtained in exchange for a "Powered By Media Semantics Technology" on the same page as your published work:

Powered By Media Semantics Technology

You can use the following HTML syntax to place the logo on your site:

<a href="http://www.mediasemantics.com">
<img src="http://www.mediasemantics.com/images/MSLogo.gif"
alt="Powered By Media Semantics Technology"
width="112" height="87" border="0"></a>




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