China’s AI News Anchor Isn’t Really AI

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Last week, a government-owned Chinese news agency unveiled what they called the world’s first AI news anchor. The anchor, created by XinHua News, was modeled after a real news anchor who works for the agency.

The anchor made its debut at the World Internet Conference. During its unveiling, it boasted about its ability to broadcast 24 hours a day and be anywhere at once, saying it would “work tirelessly to keep you informed.” The anchor looks and sounds like a real person, and it reads a script written behind the scenes by humans. It uses facial expressions and movements to emphasize certain words, making its speech extremely realistic.

While the new anchor may be impressive in its ability to read news like a human, some experts say it is not actually AI. Will Knight, an editor for AI at MIT Technology Review says the anchor is not intelligent.Knight claims the anchor’s ability to read a pre-written script is impressive, but it does not constitute an artificial intelligence, as the anchor doesn’t actually write the script itself. He says, “it’s just like a kind of very sophisticated digital puppet.” The machine’s marvel lies only in its ability to recreate realistic human speech patterns, but it can’t actually think. Knight also warns of overselling artificial intelligence, comparing AI to buzzwords which can “enter people’s vernacular before they are fully understood.”

Overall, XinHua News Agency’s new anchor is an impressive feat, but it is not actually an AI. It uses a complex machine learning algorithm to replicate human speech, but it is not an intelligent machine, and it can’t think for itself. While it may not be a true AI machine yet, it still shows how far robot technology has come and how far it has left to go.

Featured Image via CNBC


About the author

Kartik is a new sophomore at St. Mark’s School. He lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and is a boarding student. He enjoys rowing, watching movies, and reading about current events. He is a member of St. Mark’s A Capella and enjoys singing for the school choir. In his free time, Kartik likes to work out with friends. This year, Kartik hopes to be a thoughtful contributor to the Parkman Post and create content which highlights unique perspectives on the news.

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