China’s Xin­hua debuts world’s first ‘AI Syn­thetic An­chors’

The Hindu Business Line - - VARIETY - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

China’s state-con­trolled news broad­cast­ers have long been con­sid­ered some­what ro­botic in their daily recita­tion of pro­gov­ern­ment pro­pa­ganda and a pair of new pre­sen­ters will do lit­tle to dis­pel that view.

Call­ing it a “world first”, Xin­hua news agency this week de­buted a pair of vir­tual news an­chors amid a state-di­rected em­brace of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI).

Based on the ap­pear­ances of two flesh-and-blood Chi­nese news pre­sen­ters, the com­put­erised avatars read out text that is fed into their sys­tem, their mouths mov­ing in tan­dem with the re­ports.

Xin­hua said the “AI Syn­thetic An­chors”, one for Chi­nese and one for English news, were de­vel­oped along Xin­hua news an­chor Qiu Hao stands next to an AI vir­tual news an­chor based on him, at a So­gou booth dur­ing an expo at the fifth World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence (WIC) in China

with So­gou Inc, a Bei­jing-based cre­ator of search en­gines and voice-recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

China last year un­veiled plans to be­come a world leader in AI and other hi-tech fields, though it has since toned down the rhetoric amid a trade war with the US, which has in­cluded

ac­cu­sa­tions by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that China steals US tech­nolo­gies.

The dig­i­tal an­chors of­fer cer­tain ad­van­tages over hu­mans, Xin­hua said, such as be­ing able to work 24 hours a day and to quickly dis­sem­i­nate break­ing news. “The AI Syn­thetic An­chor has of­fi­cially be­come part of the Xin­hua re­port­ing team. He will work to­gether with other an­chors to bring you au­thor­i­ta­tive, timely and ac­cu­rate news and in­for­ma­tion in Chi­nese and English,” Xin­hua said.

The an­chors have ap­peared on some Xin­hua on­line and so­cial me­dia prod­ucts, but it was not im­me­di­ately clear how ex­ten­sively they would be used by the agency.

Rather than true AI, how­ever, the Xin­hua pre­sen­ters merely re­act to text that is fed into their sys­tems, the agency said. True AI in­volves ma­chines that can think, make de­ci­sions and take ac­tion on their own.

The avatars de­buted this week dur­ing the World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence, an an­nual con­ven­tion in the eastern Chi­nese city of Wuzhen or­gan­ised by China’s gov­ern­ment.


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