China debuts creepy AI that reads the news like a real(ish) anchor

Angelica Greene
November 9, 2018

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. The Chinese AI anchor looks exactly like Xinhua presenter Qiu Hao, while the English-speaking presenter is modelled after Xinhua's Zhang Zhao.

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. He can work for 24 hours continuously on the news website as well as its social media platform.

These AI anchors are basically digital composites created from footage of human hosts that read the news using synthesized voices, which means an AI system was used to synthesise presenters voices, lip movements and expressions.

A screenshot of Xinhua's first English AI anchor.

Xinhua is boasting that their new artificial intelligence news anchor is a world's first and that "he" is now considered a regular member of the reporting team and, even better, never needs a break. The news agency says its newest recruits "can read texts as naturally as a professional newsreader", but there are many who have challenged the claim.

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The highest paid news anchor, CNN's Anderson Cooper, is reportedly paid US$100 million a year, while Diane Sawyer at ABC and Sean Hannity at Fox News earn US$80 million each.

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. Reading between the lines, that would suggest there's potential for the AI news readers to push their human counterparts out of their jobs.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", "he" said in a monotonic voice as part of an introductory video.

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

Other reports by GizPress

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