China's state news agency debuts 'AI anchor'

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 9, 2018

While the voice clearly sounds robotic, and the facial expressions leave a lot to be desired, these will likely become more human-like in future iterations.

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.

Xinhua, China's state-run press agency, has created two virtual "composite anchors" that use artificial intelligence to read the news, the South China Morning Post reports. "He" as he's known, is the world's first artificial news anchor.

"I'll work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system", the AI presenter said.

Xinhua worked together with the Chinese search engine Sogou to extract human speech, lip movements and expressions from other anchors, the agency said.

Xinhua's AI anchors are doing their thing on selected distribution channels including the news agency's English and Chinese apps, WeChat public account, TV webpage, and two Weibo accounts.

'Hello everyone, I am an English Artificial Intelligence Anchor. The AI will have "endless outputs", Xinhua says, given that they can "work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms" - provided that a human editor can supply them with the copy, that is.

"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes". It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis.

"If you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor", he added.

Noel Sharkey, a robotics professor at the University of Sheffield, was slightly more impressed.

"We will see it improve over time", he told the BBC.

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