Meet China's latest AI news anchor, a young woman who runs virtual Q&A sessions to teach people propaganda

Ren Xiaorong debuted on Weibo on Sunday and so far only works with preset questions and responses.
Ren Xiaorong debuted on Weibo on Sunday and so far only works with preset questions and responses.Screenshots/People's Daily
  • Chinese state media outlet People's Daily has unveiled its digital news anchor, who'll be online 24/7.

  • The AI-driven chatbot claims to have learned the skills of "thousands of news anchors."

  • It's so far only been able to answer pre-set questions with propaganda-driven responses.

China has unveiled its latest digital news anchor, an "artificial intelligence" entity that claims to provide 24/7 news coverage.

The anchor, a virtual young woman called Ren Xiaorong, introduced herself to Weibo, China's version of Twitter, in a video published on Sunday by state media People's Daily.

Sporting a black jacket and shoulder-length hair tucked behind her ears, Ren claims to harness the professional skills of "thousands of news anchors."

"365 days, 24 hours. News broadcasts about any topic all year round," Ren says in a robotic tone.

"Ever single bit of feedback you give will help me improve myself," the bot added in the video.

So far, however, the virtual anchor is no rival to ChatGPT. Insider saw that Ren's only function, as of Thursday, is providing pre-programmed answers to questions about China's "Two Sessions" political conference.

Users are able to select one of four preset questions related to the conference, to which Ren will give a generic answer in line with the central government's messaging.

One can cycle through different sets of questions, but at no point can users type their own messages to Ren.

People on Weibo, a platform that's heavily moderated and censored, still gave Ren a warm welcome despite her limited capabilities.

"This figure looks pretty good! Technology is changing with each passing day," wrote one Weibo user.

"If it wasn't for the synthetic dubbing, on first glance you wouldn't be able to tell if this was a virtual person. Will news anchors be replaced by AI in the future?" wrote another.

Ren now joins a small crowd of digital AI news anchors in China, the first of which debuted on state agency Xinhua in 2018.

But while widespread discussion on AI in 2023 has centered on content generation, the key features of Xinhua's project were the digital anchor's voice, facial expressions, and ability to accurately mimic human speech patterns, the agency said.

Another Chinese digital news anchor, named Xin Xiaomeng, debuted in 2019.

China is now racing to find its answer to ChatGPT, the AI chat bot that's disrupted industries.

Baidu, one of China's most-used search engines, said on Thursday that it had developed its own AI-driven chatbot named "Ernie."

Despite promises that Ernie is close to completion, Baidu's presentation on Thursday featured only pre-recorded videos of Ernie's functions. Baidu's shares slid after the lackluster presentation, Reuters reported.

Representatives for the People's Daily did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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