Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Talking heads for help
Not too long ago, avatars (or "talking heads") were thought to be effective ways of making dry documentation more compelling. Without regard to the validity of that assumption, the overhead required to create the personalizations resulted in the idea never really catching on.
Today, the website xtranormal makes it easy to create movies with animated characters and spoken text. As of this writing, the site hosts over 10 million movies that members have made. Unfortunately, there's no apparent way to search the movies so it's not clear if anyone is using the service to create instructional material, but it seems like a useful tool to explore.
The site's Beginner's Guide gives you a taste of how the tool works, and browsing the site will certainly show you what's possible.