Chinese state media debuts AI news anchors

Judy Cobb
November 9, 2018

One would imagine that TV news anchors, for example, wouldn't be threatened by advancing technology, but it seems that might not be the case.

The two virtual anchors, one for the Chinese language and one for the English language, combine the images and voices of real human anchors with artificial intelligence.

China's state-controlled news broadcasters have always been considered somewhat robotic in their daily recitation of pro-government propaganda and a pair of new presenters will do little to dispel that view.

AI anchors have officially become members of Xinhua's reporting team. 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.

China's state news agency has unveiled a virtual newsreader sporting a sharp suit and a somewhat robotic voice. "They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English", Xinhua said.

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The machine learning (ML) programme can generate lip movements, facial expressions etc similar to that of human news anchor.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", the AI anchor said in its debut video at the conference.

Xinhua didn't immediately return HuffPost's request for comment on what its long-term plans are for the AI anchor or what it means for the news agency's staff, including the actual human presenter it's modeled after. This can reduce news production costs and improve efficiency during breaking news reports.

He explained: "It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes".

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 tiresome even if it improves over time.

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