China’s Xinhua unveils the world’s first AI news anchor

Lester Mason
November 8, 2018

The English-speaking "artificial intelligence" anchor for China's Xinhua News Agency made its debut at the fifth World Internet Conference in east China's Zhejiang Province - which began Wednesday and runs until Friday.

Xinhua's AI anchors are doing their thing on selected distribution channels including the news agency's English and Chinese apps, WeChat public account, TV webpage, and two Weibo accounts.

Sogou, a Chinese search engine, was involved in the system's development. The AI anchors are able to "read" any text fed into the artificial intelligence using synthetic voices that are created through the use of composite audio recorded from the real-life anchors.

A Chinese speaking "artificial intelligence" anchor has also been unveiled, with a different face. But there's one difference: While human anchors work eight hours everyday, their AI clones can report news tirelessly 24/7.

The AI's looks are closely modelled on a real news anchor, and its lips are matched to frame each word that is programmed to come out of its mouth. It appears that photo-like facial features have been applied to a body template and animated.

It was stuck somewhat in the "uncanny valley" - a term used to describe human-like robots and avatars which seem subtly unrealistic.

He explained: "It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes".

The AI anchor has also started presenting news reports.

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

Noel Sharkey, a robotics professor at the University of Sheffield, was slightly more impressed.

"We will see it improve over time", he told the BBC.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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