Date
25 March 2019
Xinhua News Agency introduced the robotic news anchor Xin Xiaomeng last Sunday to cover the proceedings at the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua
Xinhua News Agency introduced the robotic news anchor Xin Xiaomeng last Sunday to cover the proceedings at the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

Real news, fake news anchor

US President Donald Trump abhors fake news, meaning news that is critical or unfavorable to him. China, on the other hand, makes fake news anchors.

One shining spot of the ongoing National People’s Congress session in Beijing, one that has spiced up the otherwise dull coverages of the dull meetings at the Great Hall of the People, is Xinhua News Agency’s robotic news anchor Xin Xiaomeng.

In her debut performance on national television last Sunday, the artificial intelligence-powered news anchor made a highly credible roundup of the day’s proceedings as they happened – to the delight of viewers young and old.

“All delegates attending the meeting have arrived in Beijing. All preparations for the conference are in place,” said Ms Xin in her clear, business-like but friendly voice.

She was sporting a short hair and a pleasing pink outfit and earrings, exactly what you would expect from a regular TV news presenter.

The state-run news agency collaborated with search engine company Sogou to develop the highly engaging robot, who was modeled after Xinhua’s real-life news anchor Qu Meng.

Ms Xin got very positive feedback from viewers, especially from youngsters, some of whom said she has inspired them to strive to become TV anchors themselves – a case of life imitating AI.

Even foreign media had positive reviews of Ms Xin, enthusing that she could “read texts as naturally as a professional anchor” because the AI successfully synthesized the robotic anchor’s voice, lip movements and expression based on the real one.

The good thing about artificial news anchors is that they could work continuously 24 hours a day, as long as their battery is charged, and they wouldn’t ask for a raise.

This breakthrough in digital media is significant as Beijing pursues its goal to become a global leader in AI technology, which it intends to use not only for self-driving cars but also to enhance its surveillance system.

This is not the first time that China is using a robotic news anchor. Last November, two AI news anchors, both male, made their debut at the World Internet Conference in the Wuzhen, a town in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.

Already, leading news organizations are adopting AI software to help in producing stories based on raw information and data.

One could imagine that not too long from now, during results announcements of listed companies, stories would be filed not by financial journos but by AI reporters who could churn out 10,000 words a day without sweat – and no chance they would ring in sick.

Watch Xin Xiaomeng on YouTube:

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CG

EJ Insight writer

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