TV presenters world-wide are looking at each other and thinking either ‘that’s not very stiff’ or ‘am I next?’. China’s Xinhua state news agency has just introduced its very own news-bot for presenting on TV.  Called an Ai anchor, it will report ‘tirelessly’ all day, every day, from anywhere in the country, and soon, in any language, (Chinese-speaking version has a different face.

Why?

Why? Why not? say some AI fanatics. Some say this anchor ‘struggled to appear completely natural’, said Michael Wooldridge at the University of Oxford. On the other hand, Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield said it was a “good first effort”.  China is now the leader in Ai and this is a statement. How better to make than announce it on the news, TV news – with an Ai anchor. Well done Chiina.

The Uncanny Valley

Other felt it was, perhaps, stuck somewhat in the “uncanny valley” – a term used to describe human-like robots and avatars which seem distrubingly real yet subtly unrealistic. Other critiques are even more critical “It’s quite difficult to watch for more than a few minutes. It’s very flat, very single-paced, it’s not got rhythm, pace or emphasis,” Prof Wooldridge told the BBC. The performance or behaviour will improve over time. Just watch West World!

Robot Sophia speaking to an audience in Saudi Arabia

Robot Sophia in Saudi

Reducing Costs

Either way, it cuts production costs Xinhua says the presenters can “work” 24 hours a day on its website and social media channels, “reducing news production costs”. The Ai anchor says: “I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted.”   Sogou, a Chinese search engine, was involved in the system’s development.

You Decide

You decide whether this is the start of a new era, or not.

 

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