China unveils the world’s first AI news anchor

The ‘tireless’ artificial news readers simulate the voice, facial movements, and gestures of real-life broadcasters.

CHINESE news agency Xinhua News unveiled its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) news anchor. The virtual anchor was displayed at China’s annual World Internet Conference in the eastern city of Wuzhen on 10 Nov. 2018. Xinhua News introduced digital version of its regular news anchor named Qiu Hao in Chinese and another presenter Zhang Zhao in English.
Virtual anchor has been developed using machine learning technique, the AI anchor learns continuously from live broadcasting videos and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor. Xinhua News worked with Chinese tech firm Sogu to create this virtual news anchor.
Xinhua also presented an English-speaking AI, based on another presenter, who adds: “The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies … I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences.”
While praising the anchors, Xinhua and Sogou acknowledged their limits. “I, who was wholly cloned from a real-life host, have mastered broadcasting as well as the real host,” the Chinese-speaking AI anchor said. “As long as I am provided with text, I can speak as a news host.”
The pair of suit-wearing, male AI news anchors — one speaking Chinese and the other speaking English — made their debut at the World Internet Conference in east China’s Zhejiang province.

Xinhua said the AI news presenters improve the more they broadcast

Readers simulate the voice
“Hello, you are watching English news programme, I’m AI News anchor,” the English speaking reader said at the beginning of its first broadcast.
Chinese viewers were greeted with a digital version of a regular Xinhua news anchor named Qiu Hao. The anchor, wearing a red tie and pin-striped suit, nods his head in emphasis, blinking and raising his eyebrows slightly.
The ‘tireless’ artificial intelligence (AI) news readers simulate the voice, facial movements, and gestures of real-life broadcasters.
The AI news reader said, “Not only can I accompany you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news.”
AI is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: Speech recognition, learning, planning and problem solving.

High-tech powerhouse
China is aiming to become a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, as the country aims to remodel itself as a high-tech powerhouse and move away from cheap manufactured goods.
Xinhua said its newest recruits “can work 24 hours a day”, allowing it to cut down on production costs. Rounding out a two-minute bulletin, the English-speaking virtual newsreader said it would improve with experience. “As an AI news anchor under development, I know there is a lot for me to improve,” the AI anchor said.
In a separate introductory video, it added it would “work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted”.
According to the videos, the looks and features of the English-speaking anchor are based on the flesh-and-blood Xinhua news presenter Zhang Zhao, while the Chinese version is modelled on fellow Xinhua presenter Qiu Hao.

Presenters read texts naturally
Xinhua said the new digital presenters “learn from live broadcasting videos” by themselves. The agency said the readers “can read texts as naturally as a professional newsreader”.
For Xinhua’s already tightly-scripted and controlled state news presenters, the AI anchors take things a step further. Video of the Chinese anchor quickly spread on social media in China, with many viewers impressed.
According to Xinhua, the AI technology is not limited to news presenting. The systems can be customised to different clients in other industries. Wang Xiaochuan, the head of Sogou, gave the example of a popular book reading app, Uncle Kai. “In the future, it could be your parents telling the story,” he said in an interview.

Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. Most AI examples that you hear about today – from chess-playing computers to self-driving cars – rely heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. Using these technologies, computers can be trained to accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.

History of AI
The term artificial intelligence was coined in 1956, but AI has become more popular today thanks to increased data volumes, advanced algorithms, and improvements in computing power and storage.
Early AI research in the 1950s explored topics like problem solving and symbolic methods. In the 1960s, the US Department of Defense took interest in this type of work and began training computers to mimic basic human reasoning. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) completed street mapping projects in the 1970s. And DARPA produced intelligent personal assistants in 2003, long before Siri, Alexa or Cortana were household names.
This early work paved the way for the automation and formal reasoning that we see in computers today, including decision support systems and smart search systems that can be designed to complement and augment human abilities.
Hollywood movies and science fiction novels depict AI as human-like robots that take over the world, while the current evolution of AI technologies isn’t that scary – or quite that smart. Instead, AI has evolved to provide many specific benefits in every industry. Keep reading for modern examples of artificial intelligence in health care, retail and more.
— Internet

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