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AI news anchor debuts in China

AI news anchor debuts in China

China's state news agency, Xinhua, has unveiled the world's first artificial intelligence news presenters. While identical in appearance, the two versions are created to appease both English and Mandarin-speaking watchers.

The news reader, which is based on the latest AI technology, is of male appearance with a voice, facial expressions and actions of a real person.

In a separate introductory video, it added it would "work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted".

The anchors are now available through Xinhua's distribution platforms, including its official Chinese and English apps, WeChat public account, online TV webpage, and two Weibo accounts.

Xinhua says the presenters can "work" 24 hours a day on its website and social media channels, "reducing news production costs". Since it's an AI anchor, news is read out in a very monotonous manner with no expressions in between.

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Rather than creating a whole 3D model, the agency has crafted a photorealistic version of the presenters and simply animated their facial features.

It was stuck somewhat in the "uncanny valley" - a term used to describe human-like robots and avatars which seem subtly unrealistic. It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis. In a country where the press is heavily censored, one wonders if China has more ambitious plans to roll out more virtual news anchors, replacing human ones who might not always toe the party line.

"If you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor", he said.

Noel Sharkey, a robotics professor at the University of Sheffield, was slightly more impressed.

"We will see it improve over time", he told the outlet.