Cutting out the middleman entirely, the Chinese decided to replace their robotic newsreaders with AI versions of them. Could work.
Newsreaders are a personable bunch. They stare blankly at a screen and read off another screen. They flick from one emotion to another. A plane fell out of the sky? Sad. A dog on a surfboard? Lol. Initiate banter protocol with weatherperson. Initiate sign-off protocol. They’re people, but barely. Even our Lord and saviour Lee Lin Chin was a trifle robotic, and she was abetted by gaudy fashion and a latter career Twitter personality upgrade.
I love the woman, but she’s the best of a very similar bunch. It isn’t in the newsreader’s programming to be individual. You can claim that the Channel 9 model presents a folksy dad matrix, but they’re all more machine than man. Here is the news, I must read the news.
The future overlords of tomorrow, China, have cut to the root of the subtext tree, deciding to create a newsreader that is entirely artificial in its intelligence, but for realsies. China’s Xinhua News believes that their AI presenter “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor”, although that’s entirely up to the viewer’s discretion.
Xinhua AI anchor, launched on Wednesday, starts presenting news reports from Thursday. In this program, he takes you to have a look at what a Panama official and the Chinese businessman Jack Ma say about the ongoing #CIIE. pic.twitter.com/OZkRQtv1sQ
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) November 8, 2018
Xinhua believes that the AI presenter can work a 24-hour shift, thereby, “reducing news production costs”.
So how does it work?
Well, the AI system synthesises the voice, lip movements and expressions of the presenter. Apparently, the quirks are based on existing Xinhua newscasters. It looks real, as photo-grade facial features having been copied and pasted on a body template, and then animated.
Let’s address the electronic elephant in the room. It looks real, but it sounds fake. But I blame the material, not the delivery. No-one really wants to hear about a bunch of diplomats sitting in a room. If you want us to believe robots, allow us to process drama. Make us feel. We need that nightly news viscera.
Give the people want they want. Make it read this: