China unveils AI news presenter

Nichole VegaNov 10, 2018

A Chinese press agency Xinhua has unveiled an AI anchor for presenting news. 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. The anchor will work as a part of the reporting team.

At first glance, the "anchor" appears to be an ordinary looking man, with the voice, facial expressions and movements of a real person.

Chinese tech giant Sogou was involved in the system's development.

The anchors debuted during China's annual World Internet Conference, which is pitched as the country's very own Davos for technology and futurism, and provide a showcase for China's future plans, whether for the internet or just technology of the future. If that wasn't enough, the looks and features of the AI anchors are that of real Xinhua news presenters.

The new "anchor" can work 24 hours a day, "reducing news production costs and improving efficiency", according to the outlet.

"Hello everyone. I'm an English artificial intelligence anchor", Qiu said in his first broadcast.

Both anchors have already been put to work on a handful of distribution channels, like its public WeChat account, the TV webpage, two Weibo accounts, and the network's English and Chinese apps. Unlike Zhao, however, the AI Anchor's speech pattern is driven by the synthetic voice we mentioned earlier. It's commonplace in video games, and the idea is being transferred to other applications such as this news anchor. "Thank you", it said in another video.

The digital anchors can be programmed to read news faster than the traditional CGI techniques that are used.

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

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