Through the looking glass: The worry that machines will replace traditional jobs has been around for a long time, but some professions are safer than others. One would imagine that TV news anchors, for example, wouldn’t be threatened by advancing technology, but it seems that might not be the case.
At the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, the country’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, unveiled the “world’s first AI news anchor,” which was created in collaboration with local search engine company Sogou.
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. While the voice clearly sounds robotic, and the facial expressions leave a lot to be desired, these will likely become more human-like in future iterations.
“AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team. They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English,” Xinhua said.
The anchors are now available through Xinhua’s distribution platforms, including its official Chinese and English apps, WeChat public account, online TV webpage, and two Weibo accounts.
Xinhua says that the technology has “endless prospects” as it would reduce the cost of producing TV news reports and the digital anchors can work 24 hours a day. It’s hard to imagine these AI news readers ever replacing the likes of Anderson Cooper, but in a world of virtual celebrities and Deepfakes videos, who knows for certain what the future might hold.