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Artificial intelligence

Xinhua News Agency debuts AI anchors in partnership with search engine Sogou

  • AI anchors have the ability to work 24 hours a day provided human editors keep inputting text into the system
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 11:57am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 10:47pm

China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency introduced so-called “composite anchors” on Wednesday, combining the images and voices of human anchors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

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.

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“AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team. They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English,” Xinhua said.

The AI anchors are now available throughout Xinhua’s internet and mobile platforms such as its official Chinese and English apps, WeChat public account, and online TV webpage.

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.

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But AI anchors may one day challenge the human variety because of their ability to work 24 hours a day provided human editors keep inputting text into the system.

Xinhua said the achievement was a “breakthrough in the field of global AI synthesis”, pioneering the synthesis of real-time audio and video with AI-created anchors in the news field. Search engine Sogou, which also does research and development in AI, is providing the underlying technology for the project.

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The AI technology has a “endless prospects” because it will greatly improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of producing daily TV news reports, Xinhua said, adding that it could also quickly generate breaking news reports to improve the timeliness and quality of such reports.