Friday, 18 Jan 2019

These news presenters are professional and efficient. They are not human either.

The new presenters of the official Chinese news agency have perfect hair and have no heart.

Xinhua News has unveiled at its Wednesday's World Internet Conference in China's Zhejiang province what it called the world's first artificial intelligence-based global media. From the outside, they are almost indistinguishable from their human counterparts, well dressed and well coiffed. Although Xinhua says the anchors have the "voice, facial expressions and actions of a real person ", the robotic anchors retransmit the text transmitted to them in the form of speech stumbling of a sound less human than Siri or Alexa.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed, as the texts will be typed in my system without interruption," says the English version in its first video.

Developed jointly by Xinhua News and the Chinese search engine company, the anchors learn from the broadcast of live video and social media and can operate "24/24". Robots are supposed to help reduce costs and improve efficiency, but their presence The media landscape – characterized by limited press freedom and tightly controlled Internet – raises many questions about the quality of information provided by governments to Chinese citizens.

The Amnesty International presenters are both inspired by real agency reporters, Qiu Hao and Zhang Zhao, and interpret basic human expressions such as blinking and raising eyebrows. According to the first video, they can be "copied to infinity", which can cover stories in several places at once.

"The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with advanced international technologies," said the English-speaking presenter in her introductory video. "I look forward to bringing you new news experiences."

This is not the first time Chinese media has used robots in their coverage. In 2016, the TV channel Dragon TV began using a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence for its weather reports.

Twitter's Xinhua News is already showing the English-speaking English presenter in action, covering reports on a museum exhibit at the World Internet Conference and China's plans to launch an exploration of Mars in 2020. Then, on Friday morning, "he "even made an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box.

The AI ​​anchor points are inexhaustible, but they lack the skills of decision-making and data processing and can not offer the emotional element brought by a real journalist. In an interview with, Sogou leader Wang Xiaochuan acknowledged that the anchors' ability to compete with deeper human functions is minimal. But they learn fast, Wang said, requiring only 10 minutes of data to effectively mimic a person's voice. Even so, the anchors themselves stated that they still had a long way to go.

"As a developing AI presenter, I know that I still have a lot to improve," said the English presenter at his first signing.


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