China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has released footage of its newest stars: virtual news presenters which use artificial intelligence to copy human voices and facial expressions.
- Xinhua said the virtual anchors “can work 24 hours a day”
- The news agency said the virtual anchors would help cut down production costs
- The AI anchors are modelled on real life Xinhua news presenters
The pair of suit-wearing, male AI news anchors — one speaking Chinese and the other speaking English — made their debut at the World Internet Conference in east China’s Zhejiang province.
“Hello, you are watching English news program, I’m AI News anchor,” the English speaking reader said at the beginning of its first broadcast.
Xinhua said its newest recruits “can work 24 hours a day”, allowing it to cut down on production costs.
Rounding out a two-minute bulletin, the English-speaking virtual newsreader said it would improve with experience.
“As an AI news anchor under development, I know there is a lot for me to improve,” the AI anchor said.
In a separate introductory video, it added it would “work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted”.
Xinhua developed the AI news anchors in cooperation with the Chinese search engine company Sogou.
According to the videos, the looks and features of the English-speaking anchor are based on the flesh-and-blood Xinhua news presenter Zhang Zhao, while the Chinese version is modelled on fellow Xinhua presenter Qiu Hao.
Xinhua said the new digital presenters “[learn] from live broadcasting videos” by themselves.
The agency said the readers “can read texts as naturally as a professional newsreader” — although that may be a matter of debate if their first bulletins are any indication.
China is aiming to become a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, as the country aims to remodel itself as a high-tech powerhouse and move away from cheap manufactured goods.