As China develops AI-enabled nuclear submarines, a dystopian surveillance apparatus, and trains their "brightest children" to develop AI "killer bots," they're also about to put newscasters out of a job.
Meet Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua's newest anchor: an artificial intelligence which never sleeps - and uses deep learning techniques to appear more human.
"AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team," said the agency, adding "They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English."
The new AI anchors, launched by Xinhua and Beijing-based search engine operator Sogou during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, can deliver the news with “the same effect” as human anchors because the machine learning programme is able to synthesise realistic-looking speech, lip movements and facial expressions, according to a Xinhua news report on Wednesday. -SCMP
As SCMP notes, AI anchors may save television networks millions of dollars if the AI anchors go mainstream.
Celebrity anchors are regarded as important assets at major news networks in the US. The highest paid news anchor, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, is reportedly paid US$100 million a year, while Diane Sawyer at ABC and Sean Hannity at Fox News earn US$80 million each. Celebrity anchors in China are generally paid a lot less because they work for state-run TV stations but they often earn extra money from product endorsements and book sales. -SCMP
And while you won't get those off-the-cuff quips from the likes of a Rachel Maddow-bot, or a juicy argument with the President of the United States from a Jim Acosta-bot, the digital anchors can provide a constant feed of nonstop information for those pinwheel-eyed news junkies out there.
According to Xinhua, the AI-anchor is a "breakthrough in the field of global AI synthesis," in that it merges real-time audio and video with AI-learned mannerisms. Search engine Sogou - which researches and develops AI, is providing the base technology for the program.