Even in this age of the internet and instant reaction to world events, there is something that has remained fairly consistent from the original days of TV news.
The new anchor.
I mean, no, sorry. The NEWS anchor.
Yeah, that's it. A human being reading the news. Like that.
And also this. Hey ... wait a minute ...
Is this real?
Though you may not have caught it immediately upon first glance, you'd have good reason to believe that something was a bit different about that last image. It's not an actual human being. It's a computer-generated simulation.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua recently debuted what they're calling the world's first AI news anchor. In fact, there are actually two: one who speaks Chinese, and one who speaks English. Both, known as "AI news anchor," are a super high-tech combination of facial and speech reproduction. Xinhua claim that each can read the news as "naturally as a professional anchor."
Cool ... we think?
What is AI anyway?
On it's own, this news anchor is definitely a cool trick, even if it's not exactly ready to fool anyone. Unlike the fake CGI (computer-generated imagery) characters that we're used to now seeing in even big budget fantasy movie from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Avengers, the Xinhua doesn't have years to spend tailoring their computer creation's movements to set lines of dialogue. These news anchors have to be able to "react" immediately to lines of news as the stories break. What kind of job does it do?
In the video below, you can see the English AI news anchor talk about a recent news story in China. Check it out.
What did you think? We find that its talking is very stiff, flat, and, well, computer-y. But its eyebrow movements and little facial gestures are actually pretty convincing! All that said, we feel that we have to burst the bubble a little here. This isn't real AI.
AI, or artificial intelligence, is technology that is able to think and reason for itself in response to things that happen around it. But so far, this anchor isn't reporting these stories for itself, nor is it writing its own script. So calling it AI is kind of misleading.
But it at least seems aware of this shortcoming. The video signs off with the anchor saying, "As an AI news anchor under development, I know that there is a lot for me to improve."
What will that improvement look like? It's really anyone's guess!