In a bold move that’s as creepy as it is impressive, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has unveiled its new ‘AI news anchors’ which will be broadcasting across the company’s TV and web platforms.
File footage of human anchor Zhang Zhao forms the base layer over which animated mouths and other facial features are placed to produce twin AI anchors; one Chinese-speaking and the other catering to English-speaking audiences.
The robo-presenters were created in collaboration with a search engine company called Sogou. The AI will have “endless outputs,” Xinhua says, given that they can “work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms” – provided that a human editor can supply them with the copy, that is.
Xinhua claims that its AI anchors “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor,” however their clearly artificial and heavily synthesized voices can sometimes struggle with the nuances of pronunciation.
The anchors’ facial expressions are also somewhat limited (and mildly unsettling) but it’s still early days. While the move could be seen as a threat to human journalists’ jobs, some appear to welcome the innovation.
The AI anchors are the latest in an ongoing trend towards global digitization across several industries, outside of news, given that we already have the holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, not to mention the equally bizarre CGI Instagram models Bermuda and Lil Miquela.'
Read more: Newsroom of the future? Chinese TV unveils unnerving ‘AI anchors’
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