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China Unveils World’s First AI News Anchor That Looks Like Human

10 November 2018

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.

The nations state news agency Xinhua News worked with Chinese tech firm Sogu to create a virtual news anchor based on the appearance of actual human news readers.

The pair of suit-wearing, male AI news anchors - one speaking Chinese and the other speaking English - made their debut at the World Internet Conference in east China's Zhejiang province. But there's one difference: While human anchors work eight hours everyday, their AI clones can report news tirelessly 24/7. The anchors can appear to be a bit wooden and some of the facial expressions are not quite right, but hey, nobody is flawless on their first day.

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China's state-controlled news broadcasters have always been considered somewhat robotic in their daily recitation of pro-government propaganda and a pair of new presenters will do little to dispel that view.

Although other countries have toyed with animated or even robot newscasters, Xinhua claims this is the world's first AI news anchor that has the capability to improve itself over time through machine learning. "I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences". Xinhua started using the AI anchor in its broadcast Thursday as well as in a separate Chinese-language version modeled on another presenter.

Artificial intelligence technology is becoming more commonly used by news organizations.

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Xinhua developed the virtual anchors with Sogou, China's second-biggest search engine.

"He" has the voice and facial expressions of a man and can imitate a real person.

"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC. The AI TV anchor is also said to improve efficiency as it can quickly generate breaking news.

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China Unveils World’s First AI News Anchor That Looks Like Human