Thursday, 15 November, 2018

And finally, a fake newsreader for China's real news

A screengrab from the video posted by Xinhua News Agency featuring an AI TV anchor A screengrab from the video posted by Xinhua News Agency featuring an AI TV anchor
Faye Gross | 09 November, 2018, 16:38

"Hello, you are watching English news program, I'm AI News anchor", the English speaking reader said at the beginning of its first broadcast.

In any case, with the onslaught of AI beings slowly finding their way into the mainstream occupation, it isn't hard to imagine that AI anchors could become more than just a novelty.

The anchors' facial expressions are also somewhat limited (and mildly unsettling) but it's still early days. The AI anchors are able to "read" any text fed into the artificial intelligence using synthetic voices that are created through the use of composite audio recorded from the real-life anchors. In their 30-second demonstration clips the AI anchors assured listeners: "I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted".

The machine-learning program makes it possible for the artificial newsreader to copy lip movements and facial expressions in time with the story it's reading, according to the South China Morning Post. It can read news in a synthesised voice, created to sound like a professional human anchor.

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It's a question for perhaps the not-so-distant future, as China's state news agency unveils its first virtual news anchors. "Together with other anchors, they will bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in Chinese and English". One such benefit is around the clock new reporting; because the AI Anchor is real or human, Xinhua says that the anchor can work "24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing production costs and improving efficiency". "This is my very first day in Xinhua news agency", Xinhua's newest AI employee said in his introductory video at the conference.

He explained: "It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes".

China's news outlets are already subject to a lot of state control and censorship, so the ability to have virtual news readers to effectively do exactly what it's told is certainly an eyebrow-raising concept.

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