New Competition? China introduces artificially intelligent robot anchors

Gerald Bowen
November 10, 2018

"He" learns from live broadcasting videos of himself and can read naturally as a professional. The AI anchor's voice is unmistakably robotic, too, mispronouncing words such as "Panama" and getting the space between words slightly off ― akin to hearing the news from an Alexa virtual assistant or a car's Global Positioning System.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency has new star anchors - virtual presenters that use artificial intelligence (AI) to read the news.

It was jointly developed by Xinhua News Agency and Chinese search engine company

Sogou's "AI Synthetic Anchor", showcased the firm's advanced voice and video synthesis technology at the 5th World Internet Conference kicked off in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China.

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.

According to reports from South China Morning Post and Xinhua, the news anchors will reduce the cost of daily TV news report, thanks to its ability to work 24 hours a day.

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"Hello, you are watching English news programme", says the English-speaking presenter at the start of his first broadcast, in what many have said is a very "robotic" voice.

Rather than true AI, however, the Xinhua presenters merely react to text that is fed into their systems, the agency said. "I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences".

There is both an English and Chinese-speaking version with different faces.

Add news anchors to the list of people who should be anxious about robots stealing their jobs. The AI TV anchor is also said to improve efficiency as it can quickly generate breaking news.

The developments came after China published its "Next Generation Artificial Intelligence (AI) Development Plan" past year, which stipulates that the country should ultimately become the world leader in AI by 2030.

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