Tonight at 11: I’m an AI-generated character, and I’ll be bringing you the latest headlines.
What’s new: Indian broadcasters have embraced synthetic news presenters, Nikkei Asia reported. Their counterparts in other Asian countries also rely increasingly on automated anchors.
Invasion of the newsbots: Synthetic presenters can deliver reports generated directly by large language models and do so in multiple languages. One news producer noted that they also give newsrooms a break from the typical presenter’s outsized ego. None of the broadcasters has disclosed the technology they’re using.
- In July, Eastern India’s Odia-language Odisha TV introduced Lisa. Southern India’s Kannada-language Power TV debuted Soundarya at around the same time.
- Taiwan’s FTV News introduced an unnamed synthetic presenter in June. The broadcaster promoted the character by announcing a naming contest.
- In May, Malaysian news channel Astro AWANI introduced two AI-generated hosts. Joon presents the evening news. Monica hosts a nightly talk show.
- The previous month, Indonesian free-to-air channel tvOne introduced a trio of AI news anchors: Nadira, a look- and soundalike of human tvOne presenter Fahada Indi; and Sasya and Bhoomi, who appear as an Indonesian Chinese and an Eastern Indonesian, respectively, to engage different audiences. The same month, Kuwait News unveiled Fedha, described as the Middle East’s first AI news presenter.
- Delhi-based India Today may have kicked off the trend in March, when Sana started delivering news and weather in English, Hindi, and Bengali.
Behind the news: Synthetic news presenters go back at least to 2018, when Chinese state news agency Xinhua and search engine Sogou introduced pioneering 2D newsbots. Their images were drawn from videos, while their motions and voices were driven by machine learning. Two years later, the broadcaster upgraded to 3D-rendered avatars produced using “multimodal recognition and synthesis, facial recognition and animation and transfer learning.”
Yes, but: While broadcasters can use AI-generated talking heads to save time and money, propagandists can use them to gain an aura of newsy credibility. For example, an unidentified group used Synthesia, a web service that makes AI-generated characters, to generate fake news clips from a fictional outlet called Wolf News. One clip attacked the U.S. government for failing to take action against gun violence, while another promoted cooperation between the U.S. and China.
Why it matters: Synthetic presenters potentially multiply the power of broadcast news by generating an unlimited variety of talking heads. They can appeal to specific audience segments by representing any ethnicity, gender, age, or style. And they can reach an even broader audience by speaking a variety of languages — a boon to broadcasters especially in highly multilingual Asian societies.
We’re thinking: It may not be a coincidence that synthetic presenters are appearing first in countries whose people feel more positively about AI. According to one survey, people in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia trust AI more than do people in Western countries.