China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency introduced so-called "composite anchors" on Wednesday, combining the images and voices of human anchors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. A digital entity created from multiple footage of real-life human hosts that reads news with a synthetic voice.
Xinhua in collaboration with search engine operator Sogou unveiled the new technology at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, South China Morning Post reported.
"AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team", Xinhua said.
"I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted", says the presenter in an introductory video.
Xinhua News claims the presenter can "read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor".
"As an AI news anchor under development, I know there is a lot for me to improve", the AI anchor said.
But Xinhua appears to know that the anchor is a work in progress, as the AI's sign-off message on its first report emphasized.
According to the videos, the looks and features of the English-speaking anchor are based on the flesh-and-blood Xinhua news presenter Zhang Zhao, while the Chinese version is modelled on fellow Xinhua presenter Qiu Hao.
"It's quite hard to watch for more than a few minutes".
Now newsreaders face competition from artificial intelligence.
China's state-controlled news broadcasters have always been considered somewhat robotic in their daily recitation of pro-government propaganda and a pair of new presenters will do little to dispel that view. "It's very flat, very single-paced, it's not got rhythm, pace or emphasis", Prof Wooldridge told the BBC.
"If you're just looking at animation you've completely lost that connection to an anchor", he added.
Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, said it was a good effort, but it could be very tiresome even if it improves over time.