Fake news? No. It’s just the world’s first artificially intelligent virtual news anchor reading out the news in China.
Two new life-like “AI composite anchors” were revealed by China’s state-run media Xinhua and Beijing-based search engine Sogou at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen this month.
The two virtual AI anchors – one for English and Chinese viewers – have been “cloned” from their human counterparts.
Both are carbon copies of real-life anchors, Zhang Zhao (for English news) Qiu Hao (for Chinese viewers) according to Xinhua’s report, using the real-life anchors’ faces and voices.
Genuinely tireless reporting
The virtual AI anchors accurately mimic the real-life anchor’s speech, lip movements and facial expressions. Yet there is one key difference – they are able to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!
“AI anchors have officially become members of Xinhua’s reporting team,” says the state media outlet’s report.
“Together with other anchors, they will bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in Chinese and English.”
Thousands of hours of video footage have been closely analysed to recreate the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Zhang Zhao.
News from the uncanny valley
The AI smilingly informs the viewer: “I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted.
“Not only can I accompany you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news.”
The state broadcaster claims that AI can apparently read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor. Well, having checked out the video [linked below] we’re not entirely sure about that one, so far…
Both virtual AI anchors are now reporting via Xinhua’s public WeChat account, TV webpage, Weibo accounts, and the network’s English and Chinese apps.
China to safeguard the sound order of cyberspace
Elsewhere at the conference in southern China, Huang Kunming, head of Communist Party’s propaganda department informed attendees:
“We are an important advocate for peace in cyberspace and a guardian of order… China stands ready to safeguard the sound order of cyberspace.”
And what better way to do that by a tightly controlled AI-fronted state news service, eh?