Is the world ready for news from a virtual anchor?
It’s well known that artificial intelligence and automation pose a threat to certain jobs involving repetitive tasks, but now they could pose a threat to a job many consider requires a “human touch,” delivering the news. At the World Internet Conference on Wednesday, Xinhua, China’s state news agency, revealed their newest anchor — and “he” isn’t human at all.
China has already stated its goal of being the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030 and this development could be a sign that they’re on their way. The AI anchor was developed based on the appearance, facial expressions, and movements of an amalgam Zhang Zhao, a human anchor who one must think has some sort of ambivalence to the prospect.
The advantages of an AI news anchor are similar to those of AI in other fields, it can work 24 hours a day at a much cheaper cost than employing humans. The increases efficiency of using artificial intelligence should also help the ability to report on breaking news. As the AI news anchor explained in an introductory video, “(he) will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into (his) system uninterrupted.”
In addition to reading text appearing on a teleprompter, the AI news anchor will be able to evaluate news videos on his own and learn how to become better at his job. The technology has already become a member of the reporting team according to Xinhua, and people can get their news from him on the news agency’s mobile and internet platforms.
The anchor’s voice sounds robotic and his blinking eyes are a bit unnerving, but as he says to close out the report in a video of his news broadcast below, “As an AI news anchor under development, I know there is a lot for me to improve ….”
Whether or not people in China and beyond are receptive to receiving news from an emotionless creation remains to be seen. However, when some news outlets are already distributing automated news stories and many readers are consuming news based on algorithms on social media, is there really much of a difference?