China has unveiled its latest technological exploit – an AI news anchor who claims to have the professional skills of a “thousand presenters”.
The virtual robot journalist, named Ren Xiaorong, now exists to deliver the news and answer questions 24 hours a day, yet there is a catch, The Sun reported.
The creepily human-like avatar, however clever, can only respond from a pre-written script and also peddles the Chinese Communist Party’s official line.
Ren has joined China’s state-controlled newspaper, People’s Daily, as their newest employee and claims to have the skills of “thousands of news anchors”.
She was unveiled this week as the host of People’s Daily app, where she can answer questions relating to the “Two Sessions” government conference.
Beautiful and smartly dressed, Ren’s debut broadcast kicked off with: “Hello, my name is Ren Xiaorong. I am an AI digital anchor who has just joined the People’s Daily.
“Thousands of news anchors have imparted their professional skills to me. For 365 days, 24 hours, I will be reporting news for the whole year, round the clock, without rest.”
She continued: “Whether at news sites or back in the studio, you will always see me.
“Every conversation, every feedback you provide, will only make me smarter.”
Her creators claim she exists to answer on issues relating to education, health, housing, employment and environmental protection.
However, her talents fall short when you try to ask any specific questions, as you can only pick from a pre-set topic list.
Alongside this flaw, the AI-driven news anchor’s responses are extremely aligned with the Chinese Communist Party’s ideologies.
Through these virtual Q&As, Ren works to answer questions about government policies while simultaneously teaching users propaganda.
Although Ren is lacking in the truly interactive element, the chatbot echoes China’s intention of advancing the use of virtual idols.
During the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, there was a virtual host and an AI sign language interpreter.
Ren will join a small but growing club of AI news anchors as Chinese news outlets continue to experiment with the technology.
State news agency, Xinhua, debuted their first AI-powered anchor in 2018.
There was plenty of positive responses to Ren on the Chinese social networking Weibo, which is heavily censored.
“This figure looks pretty good! Technology is changing with each passing day,” a user responded.
“If it wasn’t for the synthetic dubbing, on first glance you wouldn’t be able to tell if this was a virtual person. Will news anchors be replaced by AI in the future?” questioned another.
Despite government monitoring, some accounts still managed to question the point of Ren.
One wrote: “I’ve never really understood this, is there a shortage of broadcasting talent, or are AI anchors better at it? Why would you use a robot to broadcast the news?”
Meanwhile on Twitter, which is banned in China, users pocked fun at the avatar.