AI news anchor debuts in China

Newsroom of the future? Chinese TV unveils unnerving ‘AI anchors

Xinhua News Agency Sogou

China's state-run press agency has welcomed two additions to its team of journalists - two news presenters powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the Chinese broadcaster, the presenters "can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor". The AI anchors are able to "read" any text fed into the artificial intelligence using synthetic voices that are created through the use of composite audio recorded from the real-life anchors.

Xinhua developed the AI news anchors in cooperation with the Chinese search engine company Sogou.

Although other countries have toyed with animated or even robot newscasters, Xinhua claims this is the world's first AI news anchor that has the capability to improve itself over time through machine learning. While human anchors can work up to eight hours a day, their AI clones can report 24 hours a day.

Not only is this highly debatable (see noticeable robotic reading in the video above), but it begs the question: would the public accept an artificial figure reading their nightly news?

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That isn't to say the technology isn't without its own caveats towards realism.

Net users on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo questioned if these AI anchors would replace human reporters. I prefer real human presenters, ' another said.

The AI anchors are the latest in an ongoing trend towards global digitization across several industries, outside of news, given that we already have the holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, not to mention the equally weird CGI Instagram models Bermuda and Lil Miquela.

China's news outlets are already subject to a lot of state control and censorship, so the ability to have virtual news readers to effectively do exactly what it's told is certainly an eyebrow-raising concept.

Walsh said China is quickly starting to lead the way in AI development, with the nation investing in the field "in a big way" as they seek economic and military dominance.

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