China unveils first AI reporter and, while creepy, it is not AI

China unveils first AI reporter and, while creepy, it is not AI

posted Saturday Nov 17, 2018 by Scott Ertz

China unveils first AI reporter and, while creepy, it is not AI

Last week, China unveiled what is, on the surface, a pretty impressive achievement: an AI reporter for their state-run television news. This virtual anchorman was developed by Xinhua and the Chinese search engine, Sogou, as a way to create a 24/7 face for the news, that never gets tired and is always there. According to Qiu Hao, the name of the digital host who is a representation of a real anchor for the network,

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.

To prove that this is true, the company showed off a second virtual representation of a real network anchor, who presents in English. He added,

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 biggest problem with this pitch is the claim the company is making: the world's first AI anchor. The anchor, as stated in his own voice, is not AI. In fact, he reads from a script written by humans no different from any other tv news anchor on any network. In fact, the only place that AI played any role in the software is using a machine learning algorithm to analyze video of the two humans in question to build a model of behaviors, mannerisms, and speech patterns.

While machine learning is a branch of AI, the anchor himself is not an AI. Instead, it is built on top of an AI-powered rendering engine. Not quite the same thing. Now, if the anchor is eventually able to scan the internet, pick topics and write a script, then I'll be impressed. Until then, I think it's probably cheaper and less creepy to have a real person host your television news program. Unless you're trying to present false information with a straight face, but that's a different topic (hopefully).

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