Watch China’s new AI anchor read the news

Alfred Osborne
November 9, 2018

Xinhua's AI anchors are doing their thing on selected distribution channels including the news agency's English and Chinese apps, WeChat public account, TV webpage, and two Weibo accounts.

The virtual presenters are created using 3D digital models of real humans an then apply AI tech to synthesise the voices of presenters and replicate their expressions and lip movements, without the need for more time-consuming traditional CGI processes.

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. According to the South China Morning Post, Xinhua has created two anchors (one for English and the other for Chinese broadcast) in collaboration with a local search engine company Sogou.

"I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences". Since it's an AI anchor, news is read out in a very monotonous manner with no expressions in between. 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.

There is both an English and Chinese-speaking version with different faces. I prefer real human presenters, ' another said.

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The presenter struggled to appear completely natural, said Michael Wooldridge at the University of Oxford.

There's a reason this news anchor seemed a bit robotic.

He explained: "It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes".

It was a "good first effort", however, said Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield. It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis.

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

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