China's state news agency debuts 'AI anchor'

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An artificial intelligence (AI) system has been used to synthesise the presenters' voices, lip movements and expressions.

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency unveiled a deeply creepy artificial intelligence news anchor on Wednesday at the government's World Internet Conference tech expo. The AI anchor is said to "reduce news production costs and improve news efficiency".

According to the South China Morning Post, Xinhua has created two anchors (one for English and the other for Chinese broadcast) in collaboration with a local search engine company Sogou.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", the AI anchor said in its debut video at the conference.

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.

"Honestly, it's much better and more impressive than I expected, however there is no natural cadence in his delivery and that contributes to a lack of authenticity".

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"It's the same technology that's going to be used to make politicians say things that they never said", Professor of artificial intelligence Toby Walsh told 10 daily. Known as "deepfakes", these videos created with AI technology are deeply concerning for several reasons, including their ability to impact elections and leave viewers at a loss when deciding what's real and what isn't.

He also pointed out that human news presenters have traditionally - in many cases - become highly trusted public figures.

The agency points out that they may be particularly useful for disseminating breaking news reports in a timely manner.

China has become one of the leading global hubs for AI development in recent years.

This is different from using a 3D digital model of a human.