AI news anchor debuts in China

Saul Bowman
November 9, 2018

First, the inputs need to be fed to the system for the AI anchor to read out news in a human fashion and the second thing is its commitment to work tirelessly.

The anchors - the Chinese one is modelled on real-life newsreader Qiu Hao and sports a black suit and red tie - are part of a major push by China to advance its prowess in AI technology, from surveillance equipment to self-driving cars. Pay close attention to the AI Anchor, you'll notice that its face has a limited range for facial expressions.

The world's first AI news anchor has been created by China's Xinhua new agency in collaboration with Chinese search engine company Sogou.

The AI technology has a "endless prospects" because it will greatly improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of producing daily TV news reports, Xinhua said, adding that it could also quickly generate breaking news reports to improve the timeliness and quality of such reports. "I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news", he says. "This is my very first day in Xinhua news agency", Xinhua's newest AI employee said in his introductory video at the conference.

Long known for its robotic broadcasters, China's official Xinhua news agency has taken the next logical step by introducing "AI anchors". A report published by McKinsey & Company past year indicated that as many as 800 million workers worldwide could be displaced by robots come 2030 - but that some skills are more susceptible to replacement than others.

"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.

The Oxford computer-science professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC that the anchor fell into the "uncanny valley", in which avatars or objects that closely but do not fully resemble humans make observers more uncomfortable than ones that are more obviously artificial.

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