China’s official state-run news agency, Xinhua, debuted an English-speaking digital “AI anchor” this week—and people are understandably totally freaked out.
Developed jointly with Chinese search engine company Sogou.com and shown for the first time at the fifth annual World Internet Conference this week in east China’s Zhejiang Province, the “English Artificial Intelligence Anchor” resembles the real live Xinhua television anchor Zhang Zhao on whom its appearance, facial expression, and voice are based.
Watch their conference promo video:
Though some outlets have said “the agency’s new host isn’t any more sophisticated than a CGI puppet,” the station insists that using the latest in AI technology make these digital composites more than just virtual news anchors.
According to Xinhua, the anchor you see in the video above “learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.”
The anchors are also considered official “members of its reporting team and can work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms…”
Xinhua believes this type of technology has “endless prospects” and is highlighting the reduced production costs and increased working hours the AI can provide.
Reactions on Twitter were of the epic variety:
@joerogan we are so fuckedddddd!!!!— Liam hester (@Ldhester1992) November 8, 2018
AI will run the systems. Utopian version is people are free to do as they please, never having to worry about labor. Dystopian version is AI eliminates humans. Could be either one at this point.— Jacob™ (@JazzyJPrime) November 8, 2018
But this isn't even a real robot.— Suhas Naik (@LoveSuhas) November 8, 2018
It's just CGI AI. Eewww.
With many wanting no part of it…
…and some wondering how all this will affect the nature of the free press:
Literally state run media they can fully control. Fantastic.— Me ??✌?❤? (@me1047) November 8, 2018
So do we... pic.twitter.com/PYAVHXrf8Y— Vincent Iannelli, MD (@AboutPediatrics) November 8, 2018
Mostly, however, people see it as a sign that the end is nigh:
No thanks. pic.twitter.com/vhTHsAzIAm— Daniel Major (@GuyFawkesRetro) November 8, 2018
It’s over. Might as well join them.— Daniel Major (@GuyFawkesRetro) November 8, 2018
It's the beginning of the end . Our Grandchildren will be hiding and running from these things someday. Unless we rise up now and stop Them!!!— Joe Martinez (@thejoe50) November 9, 2018
Ai is taking over the world now we are done now folks— ?Zurak? (@Zurak57) November 8, 2018
But at least one person was already onboard:
I don’t know about everyone else but I welcome our new AI Overlords— Brandon (@RaiderBintheHD) November 8, 2018
Though it reminded us of a little something we saw floating around back in the ’80s: