China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency introduced so-called "composite anchors" on Wednesday, combining the images and voices of human anchors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
According to the Chinese broadcaster, the presenters "can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor". The anchor resembles a male human anchor with the voice and facial expressions of a real person. Both the English and Mandarin news reading AI anchors are available across Xinhua's internet and mobile platforms, which includes its Mandarin and English apps as well as online TV webpage.
The AI technology has a "endless prospects" because it will greatly improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of producing daily TV news reports, Xinhua said, adding that it could also quickly generate breaking news reports to improve the timeliness and quality of such reports.
An AI system has been used to synthesise the presenters' voices, lip movements and expressions based on those of real presenters.
"Hello, you are watching English news program, I'm AI News anchor", the English speaking reader said at the beginning of its first broadcast.
But Xinhua appears to know that the anchor is a work in progress, as the AI's sign-off message on its first report emphasized.
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But AI anchors may one day challenge the human variety due to their ability to work 24 hours a day provided human editors keep inputting text into the system.
That isn't to say the technology isn't without its own caveats towards realism.
The AI anchors are the latest in an ongoing trend towards global digitization across several industries, outside of news, given that we already have the holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, not to mention the equally freakish CGI Instagram models Bermuda and Lil Miquela.
"We will see it improve over time".
China has become one of the leading global hubs for AI development in recent years.