China has got its first ever Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven news anchor, which is designed like a male human anchor. The AI-powered anchor has the facial expression of a real person and it can read the news in a voice that is designed to sound like that of a professional anchor.
The country's Xinhua news agency has created this AI anchor with the help of Chinese search engine company 'Sogou'. Two anchors have been created, one can read the news in English while the other is designed to read in Chinese.
The English-speaking anchor, dressed up in a suit and tie, resembles a real-life Xinhua anchor called Zhang Zhao. The Chinese-speaking AI news reader is also modelled on another real-life anchor.
"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted," the AI anchor said in an introductory video.
"The AI news reader learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor," Xinhua says.
However, the users of Chinese micro-blogging site 'Weibo' were not quite happy with the virtual news anchors. One of the users said the voice of the news reader was "too stiff" and it doesn't give importance to
pauses/punctuations, while another said it is "really scary."
While the news agency claims it to be world's first AI anchor, reports suggest that in 2015 China's Dragon TV used Microsoft's Xiaolce chatbot to deliver a weather report on it live breakfast show.
According to Chinese media reports, the AI news anchors will reduce the cost of daily TV news reports as the AI readers have the ability to work throughout the day. The AI TV anchor is also believed to be more efficient as it is claimed to have the ability to quickly generate breaking news, "something humans can’t do".
Similarly, 18-years-ago, an AI-powered news anchor named 'Ananova' was developed by a UK news agency, Press Association. The character was designed to read news stories via a computer or mobile phone. Ananova was launched in April 2000. Later, on July 2000, it was purchased by a French telecommunications company called 'Orange.' However, from 2004, the Ananova character was unavailable although the website was operational and putting out news until 2009.