China continues to make remarkable strides in making human journalists obsolete.
State news outlet Xinhua recently announced (Feb. 19, link in Chinese) that it had, in collaboration with search engine Sogou, created the world’s first female AI news anchor, known as Xin Xiaomeng. The anchor will make “her” debut during the upcoming Two Sessions political meetings at the start of March.
The announcement comes after Xinhua debuted the world’s first male AI news anchor, Qiu Hao, during China’s annual World Internet Conference held in November in the town of Wuzhen.
Xinhua and Sogou said that they also developed an improved male anchor called Xin Xiaohao, who is also able to stand up and gesticulate and has more natural mouth movements.
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Xinhua has been experimenting with AI-driven journalism in recent years, including a robot reporter whose attempt to imitate a human went slightly awry. Jia Jia, a Chinese-manufactured robot who resembles a young woman dressed in historical clothing, interviewed AI expert and Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly at an event in Hefei in 2017. Xinhua, which broadcast the chat live, billed Jia Jia as a special reporter. Jia Jia, however, clearly had hard time responding naturally to many of the questions posed by Kelly, sometimes taking up to 10 seconds to answer and restricting herself to one- or two-word answers that didn’t always make sense. Earlier in 2017, a 1.2-meter tall robot called “Inspire” served as an intern reporter for Xinhua during that year’s Two Sessions meetings.
Xinhua said that its robotic “new employees” have taken to their roles with enthusiasm, and since launching in November have published some 3,400 reports totaling over 10,000 minutes in length.