The boundaries between the human and digital world are fading. Possibly faster than we might think. Today, we might have just gotten a first taste of what our news anchors will look like in a few years time.
Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, has created two virtual “composite anchors” that use artificial intelligence to read the news, the South China Morning Post reports. The two virtual anchors, one for the Chinese language and one for the English language, combine the images and voices of real human anchors with artificial intelligence.
It comes to show, how far technology has advanced. The english news anchor speaks fluently and looks incredibly authentic. I am not sure if I would have been able to tell the difference between the AI-powered news anchor and his human counter part.
There are some nuances of course, though – or let‘s call them tells that give the virtual newsreader away. Mostly the bodylanguage and the slight twitches in movement make him look (somewhat) unnatural. I doubt however, that this would pose a problem for many. The language is clearly spoken, the facial expressions are there – if not still quite limited.
It can learn to do better
The synthetic nature of the fake newsreaders voice is probably the biggest obstacle. Us humans can surely tell the difference between the computer generated news reader and a real one.
Yet, this is just a first version to hit the market. Xinhua claim, that the program is capable of learning from other newsreaders by watching videos. I am sure that as time goes by, the boundaries between the real and fake newsreader will fade quickly.
It is very impressive, fascinating and scary at the same time.
We all new that this is the direction in which we are headed. But, now that it is there, everyone will start to talk about whether we actually want this or not. The fact that a Chinese company brought out its first version of a virtual news anchor, has raised many eyebrows in the western world. Freedom of speech and human rights are at stake, right?
Imagine this same news reader would have been brought to market by facebook or google. Wouldn‘t it have raised the same levels of concern regarding who controls the news and the media?
A marvel of technology
I am personally fascinated by the technological advances that have been made in recent years. We have, without a doubt, only begun to scratch the surface of what can be done with Artificial Intelligence and Video Editing.
Whereas we are „all“ scared of the negative impacts this might have on our society, we should also consider the other side of the medallion. How can this technology be applied to make our lives better?
I haven‘t spend enough time to fully understand what Xinhuas bot can really do, yet I feel that this is a breakthrough that cannot be ignored. The rules of the game are changing, the lines between our world and a world we would like to create are starting to fade.
Now is the time to debate whether that is a good thing or not. Technology is not going to wait for us to finish our debate, though. So we can only hope that those who have the resources will act responsibly.