China's Xinhua agency unveils AI news presenter

Newsroom of the future? Chinese TV unveils unnerving ‘AI anchors

The news reader, which is based on the latest AI technology, is of male appearance with a voice, facial expressions and actions of a real person.

In a bold move that's as creepy as it is impressive, China's state-run news agency Xinhua has unveiled its new "AI news anchors" which will be broadcasting across the company's TV and web platforms.

The AI are "cloned" from real-life anchors, according to Xinhua's report, sporting the same faces and voices.

Xinhua is boasting that their new artificial intelligence news anchor is a world's first and that "he" is now considered a regular member of the reporting team and, even better, never needs a break.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", says the presenter in an introductory video.

A more immediately worrying aspect is that virtual news readers could be yet another step down the route of delivering fake news and propaganda.

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Xinhua worked together with the Chinese search engine Sogou to extract human speech, lip movements and expressions from other anchors, the agency said.

"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC. "It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis", Prof Wooldridge told the BBC.

Rather than creating a whole 3D model, the agency has crafted a photorealistic version of the presenters and simply animated their facial features.

He also pointed out that human news presenters have traditionally - in many cases - become highly trusted public figures.

"If you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor", he said.

"The problem is that it could be very boring".

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