China debuts the world's first AI news presenter

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

China's state-run media Xinhua and Beijing-based search engine Sogou debuted two "AI composite anchors" - one each for English and Chinese viewers - at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen Wednesday. Xinhua started using the AI anchor in its broadcast Thursday as well as in a separate Chinese-language version modeled on another presenter.

"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", says the presenter in an introductory video.

Net users on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo questioned if these AI anchors would replace human reporters.

"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".

The idea behind an AI newsreader is that news can be delivered 24/7 without suffering spiralling production costs.

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In April this year, BuzzFeed created an eerily convincing video of former US President Barack Obama appearing to speak against Donald Trump. That's because you're not looking at a real person.

Qiu Hao, the Xinhua presenter who provided the prototype for the virtual announcer, said: "It will help us deliver news more effectively but it also poses more challenges to us news announcers".

But in the face of this possible reality, he admits the public may not buy into it wholeheartedly.

But, this isn't the first time countries have shown off robot news anchors. 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.

Walsh said China is quickly starting to lead the way in AI development, with the nation investing in the field "in a big way" as they seek economic and military dominance.

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