China's State-Run News Unveils Deeply Creepy New AI Anchor

Newsroom of the future? Chinese TV unveils unnerving ‘AI anchors

Xinhua News Agency Sogou

This AI anchor's face and voice has been designed based on the agency's news anchor, Zhang Zhao.

Xinhua also says that the virtual anchor can self-learn from watching live broadcasting videos and "can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor".

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.

"AI anchors have officially become members of Xinhua's reporting team", the publication said in its report, adding, "Together with other anchors, they will bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in Chinese and English".

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A more immediately worrying aspect is that virtual news readers could be yet another step down the route of delivering fake news and propaganda.

Xinhua built the AI with China's Sogou search engine and stated in a report that it will allow the news agency to have 24-hour news coverage while cutting down on production costs.

The anchors are now available through Xinhua's distribution platforms, including its official Chinese and English apps, WeChat public account, online TV webpage, and two Weibo accounts. It appears that photo-like facial features have been applied to a body template and animated. "It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis", Prof Wooldridge told the BBC.

There's a reason this news anchor seemed a bit robotic.

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It was a "good first effort", however, said Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield.

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

"We will see it improve over time".

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