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Watch: China unveils the world’s first A.I. news anchor

China's state-run news agency and the search engine company Sogou have developed an artificially intelligent news anchor that can read the news "tirelessly" 24 hours a day.

Sogou-Xinhua

Key Takeaways
  • The A.I. anchor was based off of a real-life anchor and is able to read any text it's given.
  • It looks realistic, but its movements are slightly awkward while speaking.
  • The developers suggest the technology could someday be used for other purposes besides journalism.

The newest anchor at China’s Xinhua News Agency looks and talks like a human, but is in fact an A.I. that can report the news “tirelessly” 24 hours a day.

Developed by the state-run agency and the search engine company Sogou, the artificial anchor made its debut on November 7 at China’s annual World Internet Conference.

“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 A.I., whose appearance is based off of a real news anchor at the agency, said.

“I, who was wholly cloned from a real-life host, have mastered broadcasting as well as the real host. As long as I am provided with text, I can speak as a news host.”

Xinhua AI anchor, launched on Wednesday, starts presenting news reports from Thursday. In this program, he takes you to have a look at what a Panama official and the Chinese businessman Jack Ma say about the ongoing #CIIE.pic.twitter.com/OZkRQtv1sQ

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It may look realistic when still, but the fake anchor looks a bit awkward while speaking. Some called it creepy, unnatural. Michael Wooldridge, professor of computer science at the University of Oxford, told the BBCit was “quite difficult to watch for more than a few minutes.”

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“It’s very flat, very single-paced, it’s not got rhythm, pace or emphasis,” he said.

However, it’s likely those problems will be sorted out as the technology evolves. Xiaochuan Wang, the head of Sogou, suggested the technology could someday be used for other purposes besides journalism.

“In the future, it could be your parents telling the story,” he said in an interview.

Still, there might be an inescapable flaw in the idea of A.I. anchors or story-telling parents, as Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC.

“The problem is that it could be very dull,” Sharkey said.


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