China created what it claims is the first AI news anchor — watch it in action here

Xinhua AI anchor
Xinhua’s English-language
artificial-intelligence anchor.

China TV/YouTube

  • China’s state press agency has developed what it calls
    “AI news anchors,” avatars of real-life news presenters that
    read out news as it is typed.
  • It developed the anchors with the Chinese search-engine
    giant Sogou.
  • No details were given as to how the anchors were made,
    and one expert said they fell into the “uncanny valley,” in
    which avatars have an unsettling resemblance to

China’s state-run press agency, Xinhua, has unveiled what it
claims are the world’s first news anchors generated by artificial

Xinhua revealed two virtual anchors at the World Internet
Conference on Thursday. Both were modeled on real presenters,
with one who speaks Chinese and another who speaks English.

“AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News
Agency reporting team,” Xinhua
told the South China Morning Post
. “They will work with other
anchors to bring you authoritative, timely, and accurate news
information in both Chinese and English.”

In a post, Xinhua
the generated anchors could work “24 hours a day” on its
website and various social-media platforms, “reducing news
production costs and improving efficiency.”

Xinhua developed the virtual anchors with Sogou, China’s
second-biggest search engine. No details were given about how
they were made.

Though Xinhua presents the avatars as independently learning from
“live broadcasting videos,” the avatars do not appear to rely on
true artificial intelligence, as they simply read text written by

“I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be
typed into my system uninterrupted,” the English-speaking anchor
says in its first video, using a synthesized voice.

You can watch the first appearance of the
English-language virtual anchor, which is modeled on the real
presenter Zhang Zhao, here:

Convincing though it might seem at first glance, the movement of
the mouth is clearly edited, the facial expression seems limited,
and the voice is also highly robotic.

The Oxford computer-science professor Michael Wooldridge told the BBC
that the anchor fell into the “uncanny valley,” in which avatars
or objects that closely but do not fully resemble humans make
observers more uncomfortable than ones that are more obviously

You can watch the virtual anchor’s report on China’s
relationship with Panama here:

“As an AI news anchor under development, I know that there is a
lot for me to improve,” the virtual anchor says as it signs off
its report.