Chinese TV station unveils uncanny AI news anchor

China state-owned TV station Xinhua revealed its new "composite anchor" which was built in conjunction with Chinese search engine firm, Sogou


Xinhua, a Chinese news agency, revealed its latest news anchor; an AI-powered, graphic composite news anchor. The news agency worked with Sogou, a Beijing-based search engine company, to develop the system.

The news agency has launched two AI news anchors, one English-speaking and a Chinese-speaking one. The anchors sport a photo-realistic similarity to real humans with Xinhua claiming its system's machine learning allowed it to speak realistically and sport convincing facial expressions with the "same effect" as humans.

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However, the facial movements of both AI anchors look unnatural and can cause them to fall into the "uncanny valley". The uncanny valley is a term used to describe an unsettling feeling people sometimes experience when they watch a human-like avatar or android which is similar in appearance and movement to a real human being, but falls short of being convincingly realistic in certain aspects.

The new AI anchor was trained on the lip movements and voices of its human colleagues. In its debut news program, the AI boasted that it "will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted," and that it looked "forward to bringing you the brand-new news experiences."

Xinhua also piloted the AI across a number of mobile platforms such as WeChat as well as its broadcast network. The news agency said the AI-powered news presenters are capable of "working" 24 hours across all its social media platforms, thereby "reducing news production costs".

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