University of Pittsburgh
January 23, 2000

PITT LAW WEB SITE INTRODUCES FIRST VIRTUAL HOST

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 24 -- Log on to JURIST: The Law Professors' Network (jurist.law.pitt.edu) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and meet LANGDELL, the newest addition to Pitt's "law faculty."

The first computer-generated audio-visual personality to be put online at a law school, LANGDELL introduces the JURIST legal education service in four different languages, and reads the daily legal news to lawyers, professors, and interested Web surfers from around the world.

Named after the 19th century Harvard law professor and dean Christopher Columbus Langdell, LANGDELL is the virtual "host" of JURIST 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "He's always on," said JURIST creator Bernard Hibbitts, professor and associate dean for Communications and Information Technology at Pitt's law school.

"We introduced LANGDELL just before the New Year," said Hibbitts. "I put him up to personalize JURIST and make the site more accessible to users who are tired of reading from their computer monitors, who have visual disabilities, or who are simply looking for a new type of online multimedia experience. Currently there's nothing quite like LANGDELL on the Internet."

So what does LANGDELL look like? "He's a bit older, and a bit formal-looking," Hibbitts said. "I wanted to make him fit the image that many people have of a law professor." And what does he sound like? "His accent's not bad, for a machine - he sounds a bit like Stephen Hawking!" Hibbitts' reference is to the brilliant but disabled British physicist whose own computerized voice became famous on PBS television.

LANGDELL has been reading the legal news on JURIST for several weeks, and is a pioneering example of a "virtual newscaster." "I'm sure we'll see more 'virtual newscasters' in the future," said Hibbitts. "In fact, a British company will release another one later this year, but as far as we know LANGDELL is the first."

There are big plans for LANGDELL. "In the next couple of months, LANGDELL will become fully interactive and will be able to answer reader questions about JURIST in real time," Hibbitts said.

Hibbitts created JURIST in 1996 as a clearinghouse for articles and course materials posted online by law professors. "Today the site provides an online forum where professors can share knowledge and exchange ideas with colleagues, law students, lawyers and interested citizens," he said.

JURIST readers can get the latest domestic and foreign legal news, U.S. Supreme Court news, and national law school news. JURIST offers the only monthly law book review service available online or in print. It also presents a series of special guides to ongoing legal issues, including "Gun Laws & Gun Control" and "Kosovo & Yugoslavia."

In addition to its Pittsburgh site, JURIST has affiliates at Cambridge University in England, the University of Toronto in Canada, and Australian National University in Australia. Future affiliates are planned for Japan and Germany.

JURIST is on the Web at jurist.law.pitt.edu.

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