This news anchor is actually an AI-powered robot
There’s a reason this news anchor seemed a bit robotic.
China’s state news agency this week unveiled the world’s first virtual newsman.
The English-speaking “artificial intelligence” anchor for China’s Xinhua News Agency made its debut at the fifth World Internet Conference in east China’s Zhejiang Province — which began Wednesday and runs until Friday.
At first glance, the “anchor” appears to be an ordinary looking man, with the voice, facial expressions and movements of a real person.
“I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted,” “he” said in a monotonic voice as part of an introductory video. “I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences.”
Xinhua worked together with the Chinese search engine Sogou to extract human speech, lip movements and expressions from other anchors, the agency said.
A Chinese speaking “artificial intelligence” anchor has also been unveiled, with a different face.
The new “anchor” can work 24 hours a day, “reducing news production costs and improving efficiency,” according to the outlet.
Despite the convenience — and technical advancement — the new addition to Xinhua’s news team has faced its share of criticism.
“It’s quite difficult 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.”
Additionally, using a computerized anchor removes the element of trust that viewers usually form with human anchors, Wooldridge added.
“If you’re just looking at animation you’ve completely lost that connection to an anchor,” he said.
But Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, called it a “good first effort.”
“We will see it improve over time,” he told the outlet. “The problem is that it could be very dull.”
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