China's state news agency debuts 'AI anchor'

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

Xinhua News Agency Sogou

Xinhua didn't immediately return HuffPost's request for comment on what its long-term plans are for the AI anchor or what it means for the news agency's staff, including the actual human presenter it's modeled after.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency has released footage of its newest stars: virtual news presenters which use artificial intelligence to copy human voices and facial expressions.

Dressed in suit and tie, the AI newsreaders can "learn from live broadcast videos and read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor", according to Xinhua.

Xinhua in collaboration with search engine operator Sogou unveiled the new technology at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, South China Morning Post reported. They have minimal facial expressions and lip movements which look quite realistic.

The virtual anchor's features are based on those of a real-life Xinhua host named Zhang Zhao. But there's one difference: While human anchors work eight hours everyday, their AI clones can report news tirelessly 24/7. He can read news as it is typed out in the teleprompter. "They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English".

"AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team", Xinhua said.

A more immediately worrying aspect is that virtual news readers could be yet another step down the route of delivering fake news and propaganda. The AI TV anchor is also said to improve efficiency as it can quickly generate breaking news.

News editors need to only input a text into the AI Synthetic Anchor system and the AI composite anchor will do the rest. The AI anchor himself acknowledges that the technology is still in development and that many improvements are required.

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