Founded four years ago, Trenario is a Tel Aviv based startup that brings traditional text content to life using digital humans. Its AI platform automatically converts text into a realistic television-like presentation, with avatars of any gender, ethnicity, or language. Meeting a need for digital skills and levelling the playing field between multinational broadcasters and small and local newsrooms, it’s the first text to presenter led video platform that doesn’t require any technical or production skills. We caught up with Dina Shatner, Founder & CEO, to find out more…
By Jamie Gavin. Originally published on FIPP.com
“I worked in the advertising industry for many years, as well as the learning industry, which is where Trenario actually started,” says Shatner. “We understand that it’s very difficult for people to read long text. People prefer to watch videos, they prefer to see other people talking to them, they want to feel that there is a dialogue or interaction between them and the content they consume. So we realised that there must be a way to deliver content in a more engaging and natural way.”
“In addition to being the first presenter-led platform that doesn’t require any technical or production skills,” says Shatner, “we’re also the first to provide personalised video content in which the same story can have multiple variations. Existing text content can be seamlessly converted into multiple video stories that are customised to different audiences.”
We’ve looked in recent years at the growing trend for audio options within news and feature articles online. Often, the play button will sit directly beneath the main title of an article, providing readers with the immediate opportunity to consume its content in this alternative way. Here at FIPP, as this article itself exemplifies, we often offer a written digest alongside video interviews, to provide audiences with the option of consuming the content by way of their preferred medium.
Trenario’s technology obviously takes that approach a step further, converting text not only directly into audio, but layering an engaging newsroom feel on top the content as well. So how is it technically implemented?
“The platform analyses web pages, newsletters, or feeds – any kind of text actually – and then it creates a story. It creates a script first of all, and then divides that script between two different digital presenters, for example. It can also add a kind of dialogue, whereby it looks like the two digital presenters are talking with each other. So it’s not just reading the text, or reading the news, it’s more like a conversation that looks more natural.”
“The next thing the platform does is that it generates a virtual studio set, like on television. And all the graphics around images, headline titles, internal screens, animations etc. are created as well. And then it generates a complete video out of all of that.”
Beginning in the eLearning space, the company is now running pilot projects with media partners. For smaller and local newsrooms in particular, the benefits of Trenario’s technology are obvious. Where high value, above-the-line news bulletins were once the preserve of large television broadcasters, smaller organisations are now also able to present content in a similar way without the real-life studio overheads, not to mention the cost of presenters.
“Competition is very tough,” says Shatner. “It gets tougher from day to day, and for smaller or local newsrooms it sometimes can be impossible to compete with the larger outlets. So here we have actually democratised the ability to create video – especially presenter-led video – at scale, at a fraction of the cost and time that is would be using real life crews and studios and so on. So with the technology, smaller newsrooms can now be on the same level as the larger ones.”
In this respect of course, introducing AI presenters into the mix is a way of making content more engaging and accessible for audiences, bringing the ‘flat page’ to life. But I wondered also in a world where scepticism – and even fear – around AI still exists, is adding human faces to AI in-turn a way of making the technology more approachable as well?
“Well, you’re actually asking a few questions here, so I’ll try to address them one after the other! Firstly yes, I think that humanising the news and the content we consume is a very important thing. People want to get their news from someone like them. So actually, we can deliver the same story in different ways, for example with digital humans of different ethnicities. People in Asia, or Europe, or South Africa can see different presenters delivering the news for them, in different languages. Younger or older presenters are also possible. These are all things we can play with to make news more personalised for people.”
“You also mentioned robots taking over the planet… Personally, I don’t think we’re already there. There are still things that machines cannot do yet, and will not be able to do in the future. As I see it, the technology is here to help us, not to replace anyone. But just as a tool that enables us to enrich and empower what we can do manually.”
Finally, it’s clear that there’s a media buzz right now about Israel’s burgeoning tech scene more generally. Phrases like ‘The new Silicon Valley’, or in the UK ‘Silicon Roundabout’ have probably become something of a cliché in recent years, as commentators look for the next wave of innovation. But in the case of Israel, we do find a wave of new media tech startups coming through. So I had to know if Shatner’s firsthand experience of the region reflected this?
“Yes, definitely. Israel is known as a startup nation. We’re a very small country, but the number of startups is huge, especially in Tel Aviv and the area. You can feel it. You sit in a café and on the table next to you someone might be starting a new venture. There is all of that energy, and infrastructure, and facility, events, mentoring, and all of that to facilitate entrepreneurship. So it’s a very huge thing here.”
“And something very important to mention in this aspect, is the percentage of women in the high-tech industry in Israel. I think the country is one of the more advanced in this aspect. We have a really high percentage of women in technological capacities. There is a lot of thinking and doing in this area, and it’s top of mind to be very progressive in that parameter. You can see especially in younger age groups 50% of the employees are women in some places.”