China’s Xinhua unveils the world’s first AI news anchor

Newsroom of the future? Chinese TV unveils unnerving ‘AI anchors

The nations state news agency Xinhua News worked with Chinese tech firm Sogu to create a virtual news anchor based on the appearance of actual human news readers.

Xinhua in collaboration with search engine operator Sogou unveiled the new technology at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, South China Morning Post reported. "They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English", Xinhua said.

A Chinese speaking "artificial intelligence" anchor has also been unveiled, with a different face.

Xinhua said the anchors are available to work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms. The state-run news agency considers the AI anchors to be members of its reporting team. It appears that photo-like facial features have been applied to a body template and animated.

Michael Wooldridge, a Professor at the University of Oxford, said the result is mixed.

It was stuck somewhat in the "uncanny valley" - a term used to describe human-like robots and avatars which seem subtly unrealistic.

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"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC.

The AI anchors are the latest in an ongoing trend towards global digitization across several industries, outside of news, given that we already have the holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, not to mention the equally freaky CGI Instagram models Bermuda and Lil Miquela.

"If you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor".

But Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, called it a "good first effort".

"We will see it improve over time", he told the BBC.

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