Is any job safe? As public and private companies continue to tinker with Artificial Intelligence and explore its many possible applications, there's a growing concern that AI-technology will replace human beings in most, if not all, professions, technical and otherwise. The latest job added to that burgeoning list? News anchors!
Xinhua, China’s state news agency, informed the Chinese public, and the world at large, of its very own breaking news: it now fields AI anchors, who will “tirelessly” cover all the news all the time, from every corner of the world's most populous country.
The Guardian reported that Chinese viewers, who had tuned in for the announcement, were greeted by a digitised version of a regular Xinhua news anchor named Qiu Hao. The anchor, dressed in a pin-striped suit with a red tie, nods his head in emphasis, blinking and raising his eyebrows slightly. “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,” he says.
The Chinese agency also introduced the Anglosphere to an an English-speaking AI, based on another presenter, who said: “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.”
The AI tenchnology was created by Xinhua and Chinese search engine Sogou. The digital anchors themselves were developed through machine learning and taught to simulate the vocalizations, facial movements, and gestures of real-life broadcasters, so as to present a “a lifelike image instead of a cold robot,” according to Xinhua.
The anchors debuted during China’s annual World Internet Conference, which is pitched as the country's very own Davos for technology and futurism, and provide a showcase for China’s future plans, whether for the internet or just technology of the future.
Given that Xinhua is reputed to already be tightly controlled by the Chinese administration, with strictly followed scripts and closely monitored flow of information, one wonders what adding AI to the mix will do.