AUSTIN (Laptopmag.com) — If you like to stay up to date with your favorite websites like LAPTOP Magazine but miss the experience of kicking back and watching the nightly news, the mobile app Guide may provide the perfect, though slightly disconcerting, solution. We got a first look at Guide at the 2013 SXSW conference and were very impressed with the translation of text articles to entertaining video feeds.
At its heart, Guide is like an RSS reader, but article gathering is the only similarity with other news reader apps currently available. Guide takes on the look of a TV guide, separating your articles into different categories, according to topics, and displaying them like a cable channel guide station. When an article is selected, a realistic avatar pops onto the screen and starts reading you the news. If the article has any photographs, they will be incorporated into the show, much like a news anchor showing off pictures. Similarly, the avatar will also cut to any video footage, breaking up the news broadcast to display the additional content.
There are currently 22 different avatars, ranging from puppies to anime characters to footage of actual people. The mouth movements were almost disturbingly accurate. The footage actually looks like the news anchor is talking to you, reading you the news that you’ve personally curated.
Guide is hitting the iOS App Store first, available for iPad only, and should be available by the end of March. But other platforms won’t need to wait long for the app to join their respective ecosystem: The Android app will be available following the upcoming Google I/O in May and a Web version should be available in June. The app will be completely free and will include a couple of avatars with more available as in-app purchases. Starting in June, video footage will also be supported by short video ads, much like YouTube and Hulu.
If you want to try out Guide before the official launch, you can sign up for the private beta on the company’s website. The video quality we saw was higher than the promotional video on the Guide website, as of press time.