Thanks to the absolute success of the Engadget snarkbot
-- that not only launches site spin-offs
willy nilly, but serves us tiny sandwiches and mixed drinks when it's not busting out posts -- other media outlets are of course attempting to imitate our success. The latest such foray, News At Seven
, is looking pretty hot. The completely virtual news show automatically gleans news from the web, supplements the info with blogger commentary and mixes in related images and video. It then uses a text-to-speech system and a lovable virtual newscaster to generate a video of the news with the Half-Life 2 engine. The three minute show is surprisingly entertaining and informative, even though it's in its early stages of development, and the show developers at the Northwestern University Infolab are hoping to develop the system into a full-blown evening news show replacement, which can be customized to the viewer's interests. While flesh and blood newscasters should be shaking in their boots, loyal Engadget readers should have no fear -- snarkbot 2.0 is on the way, and its automated development team tells us it's going to be quite snazzy.