China created what it claims is the first AI news anchor — watch it in action here
- China’s state press agency has developed “AI news anchors,” avatars of real-life news presenters which read out news as it is typed.
- It developed the anchors with Chinese search engine giant Sogou.
- There was no detail given as to how exactly the anchors were made, and one expert said they fell into the “uncanny valley,” when avatars have an unsettling resemblance to humans.
China’s state-run press agency Xinhua has unveiled what it claims are the world’s first AI-generated news anchors.
Xinhua revealed the anchors at the World Internet Conference on Thursday. Modeled on two real presenters, the agency showcased two AI-generated anchors, one who speaks Chinese and another who speaks English.
“AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team. They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English,” Xinhua told the South China Morning Post.
In a post, Xinhua said that the generated anchors can work, “24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency.”
Xinhua developed the “anchor” with Sogou, China’s second biggest search engine. No detail was given about exactly how they were made, but it was possibly achieved by training an AI system on footage of the real anchor.
Although Xinhua claims that the avatar “learns from live broadcasting videos by himself,” the avatars themselves do not appear to artificially intelligent, as they read pre-typed text.
“I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted,” the English speaking anchor says in his first video, using a synthesized voice.
You can watch the first appearance of the English-language “AI news anchor,” who is modeled on real presenter Zhang Zhao, here:
Convincing though it might seem at first glance the movement of the mouth is clearly edited, its facial expression seems limited, and the voice is also highly robotic.
Oxford computer science professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC that the anchor fell into the “uncanny valley,” a term which refers to when avatars or objects look like humans but feel subtly unnatural, and are therefore uncomfortable to watch.
You can watch the AI anchor’s report on China’s relationship with Panama here:
“As an AI news anchor under development, I know that there is a lot for me to improve,” the AI-generated anchor says as it signs of its report.