Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Chinese state media debuts AI news anchors

Chinese state media debuts AI news anchors

According to the Chinese broadcaster, the presenters "can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor". News reports are fed into the system uninterrupted, meaning these newsreaders could theoretically operate 24-7.

Xinhua said the "AI Synthetic Anchors", one for Chinese and one for English news, were developed along with Sogou Inc, a Beijing-based creator of search engines and voice-recognition technology.

"AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team".

A screenshot of Xinhua's first English AI anchor.

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But AI anchors may one day challenge the human variety due to their ability to work 24 hours a day provided human editors keep inputting text into the system. "This is my very first day in Xinhua news agency", Xinhua's newest AI employee said in his introductory video at the conference.

Calling it a "world first", Xinhua news agency this week debuted a pair of virtual news anchors amid a state-directed embrace of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Creation of fake news readers to suppress news and take control over media sounds chilling.

"It's the same technology that's going to be used to make politicians say things that they never said", Professor of artificial intelligence Toby Walsh told 10 daily.

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The anchors' facial expressions are also somewhat limited (and mildly unsettling) but it's still early days. That's because you're not looking at a real person.

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 freaky CGI Instagram models Bermuda and Lil Miquela.

Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, said it was a good effort, but it could be very boring even if it improves over time.

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