China debuts the world's first AI news presenter

A screengrab from the video posted by Xinhua News Agency featuring an AI TV anchor

China's state news agency has unveiled a virtual newsreader sporting a sharp suit and a somewhat robotic voice. The programme has been made in English and Chinese.

The robo-presenters were created in collaboration with a search engine company called Sogou.

"I'll work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system", the AI presenter said. That's because you're not looking at a real person.

The South China Morning Post reports that the two anchors-one for English broadcasts and one for Chinese-language announcements-combine the images and voices of human anchors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, mixing their speech, lip movements, and facial expressions.

A Chinese speaking "artificial intelligence" anchor has also been unveiled, with a different face. While human anchors can work up to eight hours a day, their AI clones can report 24 hours a day.

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The anchors' facial expressions are also somewhat limited (and mildly unsettling) but it's still early days. They are based on those of real Xinhua presenters.

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

"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC. It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis. One would imagine that TV news anchors, for example, wouldn't be threatened by advancing technology, but it seems that might not be the case.

It was a "good first effort", however, said Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield.

"The problem is that it could be very boring".

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