Chickasha Firm Offers 3-D E-Mail Program

Article excerpt

A technology company based in Chickasha has developed a program that allows users to send and receive e-mail that is spoken by their 3-D image.

YaPanda Software Corp.'s program is called YaPanda Avatar Mail, or YAM.

"Traditional email to this point has been impersonal and lacks the dimension of human personality," said Anthony "Kelly" Carson, founder and chief technical officer. "With the YAM product, users couple their own voice or an AT&T Natural Human Voice with their 3- D image, giving email a much needed human feel. People can now feel like they're interacting with the person instead of the machine."

With only two photos, a front view and a profile view, YaPanda animators can create a 3-D image called an avatar. Users then log into their own private location at yapanda.com where they access the YaPanda Avatar Mail program. Messages are typed in manually and then converted to speech using a natural human voice developed by AT&T.

YaPanda plans to soon offer the option of sending a person's own voice. Recorded voice messages give users the option of adding facial expressions throughout the message, making their avatar's wink, grin or even grow a long nose for telling the "big fish story."

"YAM and our future YaPanda products will revolutionize the Internet as we know it today," said Boyd Lee, president and CEO. "We will launch new technology over the next few weeks and months which will completely change the Internet to an interactive world."

YaPanda Software began in Chickasha in March. YaPanda board members include Carson, Lee, Bob Dillon, chief financial officer, and Billy Perry, vice president of operations.

Carson is the chief creative mind behind YaPanda Software. He has worked with artificial intelligence since 1988. Lee has 20 years of marketing experience with the Electric Cooperatives of Oklahoma and currently serves on the Oklahoma Tourism Commission. He is also a past mayor of Cherokee.

YaPanda expects that the growth of its products will require as many as 200 new employees in 2003. Computer programmers and software developers will constitute the bulk of new hires. The company intends to work with the Canadian Valley Technology Center and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

Travel agencies form partnership

Five travel agencies in the Oklahoma City area have created Travel Professionals of Oklahoma LLC.

The partnership was formed to overcome the challenges facing the travel industry, said Pat Nichols of Nichols Travel Inc. in Edmond. Nationwide, agencies have suffered a dramatic decrease in business and compensation from major airlines.

"We wanted to put ourselves in more of a competitive position utilizing the Internet and by combining our purchasing volumes with the airlines, cruise lines and tour companies for the benefit of our clients," said Nichols.

The limited liability partnership can gain waivers and favors by pooling the volume of business the largest travel agencies generate in the metro area. The concept is new to Oklahoma. However, similar ventures have been formed in other states.

The group, which represents a million dollars in sales just on cruise lines, can offer special discounts and on-board ship credits, for example, because the trip is booked based on the group's volume, not on an individual agency's volume, Nichols said. Overall, the group has $40 million in sales.

The member agencies were selected because they are financially sound and have been owned and operated by the same individual for more than 25 years, said Nichols, president of Travel Professionals of Oklahoma. There were 24,000 travel agencies in the United States in 1995, and now, 16,500 were listed last year, he said.

"We are repackaging the positive aspects of each of the agencies," he said. The agencies represented are All About Travel in northwest Oklahoma City, Travel Gallery in Midwest City, Bentley Hedges Travel in southwest OKC and Norman, Boarding Pass Travel in Norman, and Nichols Travel in Edmond. …