It was only back in 2018, that Xinhua the Chinese state-run media company unveiled the world's first two AI-powered news anchor at the World Internet Conference.
The first was made to look like the real-life anchor, Zhang Zhao, and was designed for English watchers. The second AI which was based on another presenter, Qiu Hao, was meant for Mandarin-speaking watchers.
The two "artificial men" which were the world's first AI-based news anchors, were introduced at the eve of China’s annual Journalists’ Day.
Then in early 2019, Xinhua introduced another news anchor called "Xin Xiaomeng", considered the first-ever female AI-powered news anchor.
In 2020, Xinhua again made a breakthrough, by introducing the world's first 3D AI-powered news anchor.
Here comes Xin Xiaowei, the world's first 3D #AINewsAnchor.
Jointly developed by Sogou and Xinhua News Agency, she will report for Xinhua News Agency on the #TwoSessions, creating a new and dynamic viewing experience. pic.twitter.com/5Tok2Mm3Pl
— Sogou Inc. (@Sogou_Inc) May 21, 2020
The 3D anchor called Xin Xiaowei was modeled after Zhao Wanwei, a real-life reporter for the news agency.
To make her appear three dimensional, the companies brought her to life using “multi-modal recognition and synthesis, facial recognition and animation and transfer learning,” according to Sogou, the tech company that partnered with Xinhua to help bring all of these AI-powered news anchors to life.
The company claims that the methods allows it to imitate human voices, facial expressions, lip movements, and mannerisms using only text inputs.
By adding Xiaowei, Xinhua is having yet another virtual presenter as its 'employee'.
Xiaowei's first task, was to report for Xinhua on the Two Sessions, an annual congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
Sogou added that in the future, Xiaowei will walk out of the studio to offer “a refreshing news broadcasting style under various scenarios.”
AI anchors, while sharing similarities with their human counterparts when seen on screen, they are unlike them in everything else.
For example, they can work “tirelessly” all day every day, from anywhere in the country.
“Not only can I accompany you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news,” the first male AI news anchor once said.
Adding that: “The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies … I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences.”
According to Xinhua, the AI technology is not limited to news presenting. The systems can be customized to different clients in other industries.
While China is home to some of the world’s largest tech companies with over than 1 billion internet users, the country is considered one of the most controlled with the world.
Using various methods, the government of China has deployed technologies from iris and gait recognition and others to monitor citizens' activities.