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09 November 2018, 08:49 | Glen Norman
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionChina's'first AI news anchor
Xinhua, a Chinese state-run media company, and Sogou, a Beijing-based search engine debuted a pair of AI news anchors this week at the World Internet Conference.
The South China Morning Post reports that the two anchors-one for English broadcasts and one for Chinese-language announcements-combine the images and voices of human anchors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, mixing their speech, lip movements, and facial expressions.
Viewers may one day be able to choose the artificial anchor from whom they prefer to hear the news.
The AI confirms as much, saying "I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted". "Together with other anchors, they will bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in Chinese and English". Since the AI anchor can work 24 hours a day, Xinhua says that means production costs associated with human anchors can be reduced and efficiency improved.
A more immediately worrying aspect is that virtual news readers could be yet another step down the route of delivering fake news and propaganda.
Rather than creating a whole 3D model, the agency has crafted a photorealistic version of the presenters and simply animated their facial features.
"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes", University of Oxford Professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC.
In any case, with the onslaught of AI beings slowly finding their way into the mainstream occupation, it isn't hard to imagine that AI anchors could become more than just a novelty.
But Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, called it a "good first effort".
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