China’s state news agency Xinhua has unveiled a virtual newsreader wearing a sharp suit and a somewhat robotic voice.
According to Xinhua News, the presenter “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor”.
“Hello, you are watching English news programme,” says the English-speaking presenter at the start of his first report.
Sogou, a Chinese search engine, was involved in the system’s development.
“I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted,” says the presenter in an introductory video.
“I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences.”
There is also a Chinese-speaking version with a different face.
Xinhua says the presenters can “work” 24 hours a day on its website and social media channels, “reducing news production costs”.
The agency points out that they may be particularly useful for disseminating breaking news reports in a timely manner.
An artificial intelligence (AI) system has been used to synthesise the presenters’ voices, lip movements and expressions. They are based on those of real Xinhua presenters.
This is different from using a 3D digital model of a human. It appears that photo-like facial features have been applied to a body template and animated.