And finally, a fake newsreader for China's real news

Isaac Cain
November 9, 2018

That may be the farfetched future, but AI seems to be putting jobs of TV news anchors at risk for now.

If that wasn't enough, the looks and features of the AI anchors are that of real Xinhua news presenters.

But, this isn't the first time countries have shown off robot news anchors.

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

In a YouTube video, the artificial person explains that its voice and appearance is modeled on Zhang Zhao, a real news reporter with Xinhua.

China's state-run media Xinhua and Beijing-based search engine Sogou debuted two "AI composite anchors" - one each for English and Chinese viewers - at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen Wednesday.

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Rather than true AI, however, the Xinhua presenters merely react to text that is fed into their systems, the agency said.

An artificial intelligence (AI) system has been used to synthesise the presenters' voices, lip movements and expressions. "They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English". It can read news in a synthesised voice, created to sound like a professional human anchor.

Xinhua said the achievement was a "breakthrough in the field of global AI synthesis", pioneering the synthesis of real-time audio and video with AI-created anchors in the news field.

The digital anchors offer certain advantages over humans, Xinhua said, such as being able to work 24 hours a day and to quickly disseminate breaking news. It makes sense for news agencies trying to reduce news production costs.

"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC.

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 boring even if it improves over time.

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