China’s Xinhua news agency announced the latest fellows of its TV studio: Artificial Intelligence (AI) newscasters who will present news “tirelessly” whole day each day, and from any part of the country.
A digital version of Qiu Hao, a regular Xinhua newscaster, met the Chinese viewers. The newscaster, dressed in a pin-striped suit and a red tie, nods his head when highlighting, raises his eyebrows a little and blinks.
“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,” he says.
Xinhua also introduced an AI anchor who speaks English, based on another anchor, who adds: “The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies … I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences.”
Sogou, the Chinese search engine, and Xinhua developed the newscasters. The AI anchors were created using machine learning to mimic the facial moves, voice, and gestures of human anchors, to develop “a lifelike image instead of a cold robot,” according to Xinhua.
The anchors made their debut appearance on China’s yearly World Internet Conference. Even though China is the birthplace of some of the leading tech firms in the world and about 800 million internet clients, its internet is among the most controlled internets globally. Viewers fear that China is transforming into a digital police state, with tech from gait and iris recognition being integrated to observe ethnic minorities from cities like Xinjiang, activists and normal citizens.
In a southern China’s Wuzhen conference, attendees watched their pictures appear on a screen as soon as they crossed the security checks by facial recognition. In fintech’s meeting, firms discussed collaborating with law enforcement, providing data to put careless citizens on social credit blacklists.
At the event, Huang Kunming, Chief of Communist Party’s propaganda department, said:
“We are an important advocate for peace in cyberspace and a guardian of order. China stands ready to safeguard the sound order of cyberspace.”
Xinhua says that AI tech is not restricted to news reporting. The AI systems can be personalized for various clients of other industries. The head of Sogou, Wang Xiaochuan, quoted an example of a famous book reading app, Uncle Kai. “In the future, it could be your parents telling the story,” he claimed in an talk.
For Xinhua’s even now controlled state and tightly-scripted newscasters, the AI anchors move things one step ahead. Chinese AI anchor’s video quickly went viral on social media in China, with viewers being both alarmed and impressed. “A little bit horrible,” one observer said to which one viewer replied: “Really scary.” “Another said: “Shivering.”
While admiring the successes, Sogou and Xinhua accepted its limits.
“I, who was wholly cloned from a real-life host, have mastered broadcasting as well as the real host,” the AI anchor claimed. “As long as I am provided with text, I can speak as a news host.”