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    People’s Daily Uses AI Anchor to Answer ‘Two Sessions’ Questions

    Though several media outlets have introduced virtual presenters in recent years, not all viewers are convinced.

    One of China’s most influential state-run news outlets has added a new recruit — an online anchor powered by artificial intelligence.

    The People’s Daily debuted the female robot — named Ren Xiaorong — on the eve of the closing session of China’s top political meeting. The robot anchor, available on its app, was part of the outlet’s coverage of the “two sessions” and also interacted with the audience by answering questions about the “two sessions” from viewers.

    “Thousands of human hosts have taught me professional skills,” said Ren, who appears to have shoulder-length hair and a jovial facial expression, in the self-introductory video. “I can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on various news. You can find me both in the studio and at places where news happens.”

    In recent years, China has been investing heavily in artificial intelligence, adopting the technology in sectors ranging from automobiles and logistics to health care and education. Now, media organizations are also hopping on the bandwagon, deploying robot journalists in the gathering and sharing of general news.

    In 2018, the state-run Xinhua News Agency introduced two male AI-powered news anchors who delivered news in Chinese and English. By the end of 2021, the AI-powered anchors had produced over 20,000 news reports, with a total duration of more than 46,037 minutes, accumulating more than 7 billion views, according to media reports.

    Two years later, the People’s Daily introduced its first female AI host named Guoguo, who then attracted attention for her ability to change her hairstyle and clothes at any given second, and other outlets have followed suit, such as the state broadcaster China Central Television and Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper. However, they haven’t garnered as much success as had been hoped.

    Meanwhile, Ren from the People’s Daily has created a buzz online, particularly for the ability to interact with viewers, as they can ask about the topics discussed during the “two sessions” and receive an immediate response. But not everyone seems amused or enthusiastic about the robot journalist.

    “This AI-powered host will not take the jobs of young new anchors,” one user said on microblogging platform Weibo. “If she’s just sat there saying nothing, nobody would suspect if she’s real or not. But her tone of voice is too fake.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Ren Xiaorong, the AI anchor debuted by the People’s Daily during “two sessions.” From @人民日报 on Weibo)