China debuts the world's first AI news presenter

Yolanda Curtis
November 9, 2018

China's state news agency this week unveiled the world's first virtual newsman. "'He' learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor", Xinhua reported.

Based on the model of Xinhua's two anchors and launched for English and Chinese platforms, the model has been created using latest AI technology.

Xinhua developed the AI news anchors in cooperation with the Chinese search engine company Sogou.

After this launch, AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team.

The South China Morning Post reports that the two anchors-one for English broadcasts and one for Chinese-language announcements-combine the images and voices of human anchors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, mixing their speech, lip movements, and facial expressions. In a country where the press is heavily censored, one wonders if China has more ambitious plans to roll out more virtual news anchors, replacing human ones who might not always toe the party line. This version can read the news, uninterrupted, 24/7.

"This is scary stuff, and arguably I am staring directly at my future replacement", veteran 10 News First newsreader Sandra Sully said of the technology.

In April this year, BuzzFeed created an eerily convincing video of former US President Barack Obama appearing to speak against Donald Trump.

"Hello, you are watching English news programme", the English-speaking AI presenter said in the opening of his first report.

"I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences". Pay close attention to the AI Anchor, you'll notice that its face has a limited range for facial expressions.

China's news outlets are already subject to a lot of state control and censorship, so the ability to have virtual news readers to effectively do exactly what it's told is certainly an eyebrow-raising concept.

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