Chinese state media debuts 'AI' news anchors

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While the voice clearly sounds robotic, and the facial expressions leave a lot to be desired, these will likely become more human-like in future iterations.

But AI anchors may one day challenge the human variety due to their ability to work 24 hours a day provided human editors keep inputting text into the system.

The anchor's machine learning programme is able to synthesise realistic-looking speech, lip movements and facial expressions, Xinhua said, to deliver news with "the same effect" as a human.

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The virtual puppets, which appear to be very similar to the technology used to make "DeepFake" videos, was developed by Xinhua and the Chinese search engine, Sogou.com.

The avatar made its debut at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China on Wednesday 07 November. Both were modeled on real presenters, with one who speaks Chinese and another who speaks English.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", says the presenter in an introductory video.

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Add news anchors to the list of people who should be anxious about robots stealing their jobs.

It will work 24 hours a day on the official website and various social media platforms of Xinhua, which in turn will help reduce news production costs and improve efficiency. "I look forward to bringing you brand-new news experiences".

The anchors - the Chinese one is modelled on real-life newsreader Qiu Hao and sports a black suit and red tie - are part of a major push by China to advance its prowess in AI technology, from surveillance equipment to self-driving cars. "Thank you", it said. It can read news in a synthesised voice, created to sound like a professional human anchor.

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The developments came after China published its "Next Generation Artificial Intelligence (AI) Development Plan" previous year, which stipulates that the country should ultimately become the world leader in AI by 2030.

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