China Debuts Virtual News Anchor With Artificial Intelligence... And It's Disturbingly Realistic

Friday, 09 November 2018 - 11:13AM
Weird Science
Virtual Reality
Friday, 09 November 2018 - 11:13AM
China Debuts Virtual News Anchor With Artificial Intelligence... And It's Disturbingly Realistic
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Screenshot: YouTube/New China TV
Personality is a big part of what makes news anchors successful and why people tune in to watch them, at least here in the United States. According to CNN Business, a news agency in China, Xinhua, has introduced an anchor with the least personality ever, because it is in fact not a person: it's a virtual reality model powered by AI.

Unveiled at an internet conference in Wuzhen, the English-speaking virtual anchor was developed in a collaboration between Xinhau and the search engine company Sogou.com. It uses artificial intelligence and was modeled on a living anchor named Zhang Zhao, though it only introduces itself as "AI news anchor in Beijing." Xinhau uses the pronoun "he" to refer to the anchor, and said in a statement that he "learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor." Judging by the introductory video, that may be a bit of a stretch. The delivery and speech patterns of the AI are slightly stilted, similar to that of Siri, Alexa, and other personal assistants, which some Chinese viewers have noticed and shared via the social media app Weibo, CNN reports. 

Xinhua says that the AI anchor "can work 24 hours a day" and is more cost production and efficient than the alternative (i.e. humans). "I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted," the virtual anchor said in the shared video. There is also a Chinese-speaking AI anchor that is based on a different person, but it is unclear if both bots learn from the same sources with different translations. The AI anchors also appear to have their own virtual studios and exist online, so it doesn't seem like the anchors who they are modeled after have to worry about losing their broadcast jobs...yet.



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