China introduces robot news readers

Dan Rather updated:

Xinhua News unveiled its robotic news readers recently, claiming that they can “read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor:

The agency points out that they may be particularly useful for disseminating breaking news reports in a timely manner.

An artificial intelligence (AI) system has been used to synthesise the presenters’ voices, lip movements and expressions. They are based on those of real Xinhua presenters.

This is different from using a 3D digital model of a human. It appears that photo-like facial features have been applied to a body template and animated.

Chris Baraniuk, “China’s Xinhua agency unveils AI news presenter” at BBC

Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield told the BBC that it was a “good first effort”, but warned that even an improved version “could be very dull.” From a different perspective, computer scientist Michael Woodridge described the automaton as stuck in the “uncanny valley.”

The uncanny valley is “our strange revulsion toward things that appear nearly human, but not quite right,” for example some robots and computer animations. More.

Reality check: What if they scripted the whole thing at CNN with robots? How would you know?

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