China's state news agency debuts 'AI anchor'

A screengrab from the video posted by Xinhua News Agency featuring an AI TV anchor

Anyone who's played Deus Ex: Human Revolution will recall the Picus news agency that used an AI news anchor to propagate propaganda of the comms agency behind the news firm.

Although other countries have toyed with animated or even robot newscasters, Xinhua claims this is the world's first AI news anchor that has the capability to improve itself over time through machine learning.

China's state news agency has unveiled a virtual newsreader sporting a sharp suit and a somewhat robotic voice.

"I'll work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system", the AI presenter said.

According to the, an English-language anchor and a Chinese-language anchor were created by Xinhua in partnership with local Beijing search engine company Sogou. The AI will have "endless outputs", Xinhua says, given that they can "work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms" - provided that a human editor can supply them with the copy, that is.

A more immediately worrying aspect is that virtual news readers could be yet another step down the route of delivering fake news and propaganda.

Prince Charles talks about his future role in new BBC documentary
A documentary titled "Prince, Son & Heir: Charles at 70" is set to air Thursday ahead of Charles's milestone birthday next week. He said: 'I don't see why the future monarch should be expected to be completely viewless and silent on everything.

'Hello everyone, I am an English Artificial Intelligence Anchor.

Michael Wooldridge, a Professor at the University of Oxford, said the result is mixed.

It was stuck somewhat in the "uncanny valley" - a term used to describe human-like robots and avatars which seem subtly unrealistic.

He explained: "It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes".

"If you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor". China's news outlets are already subject to a lot of state control and censorship, so the ability to have virtual news readers to effectively do exactly what it's told is certainly an eyebrow-raising concept.

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