China's Xinhua agency unveils world's first AI news presenters

Watch this creepy AI anchor talk like a real person

A Chinese press agency Xinhua has unveiled an AI anchor for presenting news.

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

The anchors premiered on Wednesday at the World Internet Conference in China. Xinhua started using the AI anchor in its broadcast Thursday as well as in a separate Chinese-language version modeled on another presenter. The AI will have "endless outputs", Xinhua says, given that they can "work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms" - provided that a human editor can supply them with the copy, that is.

"Xinhua said the new digital presenters "[learn] from live broadcasting videos" by themselves. Its limited range of motion and expressions becomes repetitive after a short time, while its gray crisp suit and perfectly coiffed hair are even more rigid than human cable news hosts.

But Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, called it a "good first effort".

"This is scary stuff, and arguably I am staring directly at my future replacement", veteran 10 News First newsreader Sandra Sully said of the technology. The AI are "cloned" from real-life anchors, according to Xinhua's report, sporting the same faces and voices.

The anchor takes advantage of AI technology to combine images and voices of human anchors to deliver news with "the same effect" as human anchors. They are based on those of real Xinhua presenters.

Qiu Hao, the Xinhua presenter who provided the prototype for the virtual announcer, said: "It will help us deliver news more effectively but it also poses more challenges to us news announcers".

China has become one of the leading global hubs for AI development in recent years.

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