World's First AI News Anchor Makes Debut In China

The AI anchor is a product of Chinese search engine company Sogou.com.

Chinese news agency, Xinhua unveiled, on November 9th, what they are calling The "world's first artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor," during the World Internet Conference in China's Zhejiang province.



According to Xinhua, the anchor can read text in a natural professional voice and tone, like any other human anchor and can self-tech by watching live broadcasting videos.


According to China Daily, The Anchor was created using "facial landmark localization" and "face reconstruction." Technologies used to make the program look and sound more natural, equipped with facial expressions, and emotional responses. As the BBC notes, it "appears that photo-like facial features have been applied to a body template and animated."


The AI anchor is a product of Chinese search engine company Sogou.com. According to reports by Reuters, there is another version of the program which was modeled after real anchor Qiu Hao. The wire service added that there doesn't seem to be a clear date on which the program will actually go live.


Practical advantages to having an AI anchor, according to the news agency is a reduction of costs and improvement in efficiencies, saying "can work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency." South China Morning Post suggests it could save networks money in news anchor salaries, and even "one day challenge the human variety."


Industry watchers, however, are somewhat skeptical about the long-term appeal an AI news anchor will have in such a personality-based industry. A great deal of the appeal of news-anchored shows is the anchors themselves. Half of the reason for the popularity of the Rachel Maddow Show is certainly Maddow herself. Most people I know tune in to Velshi & Ruhle on MSNBC to enjoy Stephanie Ruhle's fiery, passionate delivery of the news of the day.


"It's quite difficult to watch for more than a few minutes. It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis," Michael Wooldridge from the University of Oxford told the BBC. And compared to a trusted human news anchor, he says that "if you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor."



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