Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

World’s first AI news anchor goes on air

World’s first AI news anchor goes on air

It can read news in a synthesised voice, created to sound like a professional human anchor.

China has got its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) news anchor.

China's Xinhua news agency on Thursday unveiled the world's first AI anchor that can read news in English and Chinese.

The machine learning (ML) programme can generate lip movements, facial expressions etc similar to that of human news anchor.

The virtual anchor's features are based on those of a real-life Xinhua host named Zhang Zhao. In a country where the press is heavily censored, one wonders if China has more ambitious plans to roll out more virtual news anchors, replacing human ones who might not always toe the party line.

Not only is this highly debatable (see noticeable robotic reading in the video above), but it begs the question: would the public accept an artificial figure reading their nightly news?

The AI news anchor also collects data and learns to develop itself. 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. This is my very first day in Xinhua News Agency, ' says the presenter in an introductory video. "Together with other anchors, they will bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in Chinese and English".

The results looks to be a tad mixed, with AI news presenters looking a little stilted and unnatural, though if we were to stumble in late at night after a skinful and turn on Chinese news, we'd probably be duped by the presenter, at least until we sobered up with some fried chicken and a can of coke. The AI anchor himself acknowledges that the technology is still in development and that many improvements are required.

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