Hi-tech: Xinhua’s first English AI anchor makes debut

09/11/2018

China’s state news agency has unveiled a virtual newsreader sporting a sharp suit and a somewhat robotic voice

 

The world’s first AI anchorman has started broadcasting the news to Chinese viewers. Xinhua News claims the presenter “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor”, though not everyone may agree. “Hello, you are watching English news programme,” says the English-speaking presenter at the start of his first report. Sogou, a Chinese search engine, was involved in the system’s development.

A comparison between the machine and his human counterpart reading the headlines in Chinese showed startling similarities which fade as soon as the ‘robot’ anchor opens his mouth and starts speaking.

“I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted,” says the virtual presenter in an introductory video. This virtual journalist is actually modelled on a real reporter with the agency, Zheng Zhao.

 

 

Xinhua underlines how the virtual anchorman can “work” 24 hours a day on its website and social media channels, “reducing news production costs and boosting news spread even in night time”. The agency points out that they may be particularly useful for disseminating breaking news reports in a timely manner.

“I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences”, said AI presenter. AI ethics expert Professor Noel Sharkey said that developers were able to model the virtual news reader from the “constrained set of expressions” real anchors commonly used.

“It is clear that the AI anchor is directly reciting continuous text that it is receiving,” he said. “It will have been trained on a large sample of the real anchor’s expressions. News readers have a constrained set of expression to show importance, humour and gravitas which makes this possible”, said Mr. Sharkey.

 

Developers will need to make their AI more expressive and develop more language if it is to keep people interested. This is Chinese netizen main opinion.

 

As many users and experts pointed out, nevertheless the presenter struggled to appear completely natural, it’s quite difficult to watch for more than a few minutes. On Weibo people said how this virtual anchorman is very flat, very single-paced, it’s not got rhythm, pace or emphasis. In one word: boring.

Thus Chinese netizen are decided on the real efficacy of this virtual presenter, but everyone agree how the launch of AI presenter is such great step of Chinese AI industry in hi-tech sector. The future? Is not anymore a movie, but is becoming real life.

 

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