Watch China’s new AI anchor read the news

Elias Hubbard
November 8, 2018

The state-run press agency in China, Xinhua, will now deliver news using "AI anchors" made of digital composites that use synthesized voices to "read" the news.

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.

In an introductory video, the software says: "I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted". That's because you're not looking at a real person.

The robo-presenters were created in collaboration with a search engine company called Sogou.

The new "anchor" can work 24 hours a day, "reducing news production costs and improving efficiency", according to the outlet. The two virtual anchors, one for the Chinese language and one for the English language, combine the images and voices of real human anchors with artificial intelligence. Since it's an AI anchor, news is read out in a very monotonous manner with no expressions in between.

The presenter struggled to appear completely natural, said Michael Wooldridge at the University of Oxford.

"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC.

He also pointed out that human news presenters have traditionally - in many cases - become highly trusted public figures. "It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis", Prof Wooldridge told the BBC.

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

"The problem is that it could be very tiresome".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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