The End of News Anchors? At Least Live Ones

Technology is Beginning to Disrupt the Good Old Talking Heads Seen on TV or Streaming Apps

artificial intelligence

Ready to give up your favorite news anchor? Or, ready to watch your favorite avatar?

China’s national Xinhua news agency, in conjunction with search engine Sogou, have created a “vocational avatar.” Not just any avatar either, but a 3D news anchor that uses Artificial Intelligence.

Now I realize that almost all (oh hey, ALL) of the live news anchors have “artificial” intelligence, but the avatars don’t come with attitude. Nor do they get super high paychecks, breaks or need make up/hair refreshing. But, the 3D AI news anchor can communicate visual and audio information more naturally and smoothly in real time and can even “walk” around the studio.

The avatar news anchor was trained on a real news anchor and uses “multi modal recognition and synthesis, facial recognition and animation and transfer learning” to imitate human mannerisms and voices (wow, say that fast). Of course an editor must still type in the text for the “anchor” to read, but still, those on-air live anchors may be looking for new careers soon

(Quick side note; earlier this year Reuters said it had collaborated with UK-based “synthetic media” company Synthesia to create a convincingly realistic, AI-generated sports presenter — “intended purely as a proof of concept”…) (Proof of concept? Like to see that contract negotiation with the “live person”)

This automated news journalism is already being used globally. Russia’s leading news agency, TASS, began an AI news anchor earlier this year and recently Abu Dhabi Media announced it will soon have an avatar. Of course with an editor still needed for input, the propensity for a “bias” will still exist. The difference? You may not detect the bias in body language or expressions with an AI anchor.

So, where will this lead? When these technologies are further developed and in use, expect AI news anchors reporting on current events with their own news generating systems. Talking heads obsolete? Is that good or bad.

Guess it depends on with news outlet you watch.