Chinese state-run media outlet debuts AI news anchors

The "composite anchors," are a mix of machine learning and AI software that allows them to read the news 24/7. Yes, it's incredibly creepy.

0 November 12, 2018
Devin Jones

 

Late last week, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua debuted what they’re calling “composite anchors,” with the ability to report news 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the country.

In reality, the anchors are humans beings given a machine learning treatment. While the specific software hasn’t been identified, viewers who watch the 30-second clip above are treated to a human news anchor with a synthesized voice and creepily animated mouth. Xinhua showed off two models, one speaking Mandarin and the aforementioned anchor relaying a message in robotic English.

“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,” says the English AI thing.

According to Xinhua, these AI anchors have officially become a part of the reporting team for the outlet and will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English.”

The AI anchors were developed, in part, by Sogou a Chinese search engine. Launched in 2004 Sogou sits—depending on who you ask or what you read—in second or third in the search engine rankings (think Bing versus Google) behind Baidu – the undisputed king of search in China.

In 2008 they launched a Sogou web browser and in August of 2017 they announced that it was planning to focus on artificial intelligence and natural language processing in its bid to build a next-generation search engine, with the aim of becoming an “innovator and pioneer in artificial intelligence in China”.

The debut of the AI anchors was made at China’s World Internet Conference where Huang Kunming, head of Communist Party’s propaganda department spoke. “We are an important advocate for peace in cyberspace and a guardian of order. China stands ready to safeguard the sound order of cyberspace.”

While China is home to some 800 million internet users and some of the world’s biggest tech companies, the internet is tightly controlled. A prime example of this big brother mentality is the case of World Internet Conference attendees having their photos flash on a screen as they went through security – a direct result of technology from iris and gait recognition being deployed to monitor whomever the Chinese government wants.

www.xinhuanet.com


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