It was bound to happen.
If scientists can clone sheep, then surely they can create an artificial intelligence-powered TV news anchorman. While this may anger all those Ron Burgundy's on TV sets around the country, using AI to program and present the news, using composite photos of actual news anchors was an inevitability. And the Chinese appear to be the first to accomplish this broadcasting feat.
For that country's government-run news agency, Xinhua, this is a dream come true. They actually designed two AI anchormen – one for English broadcasts, and the other for Chinese speakers. The video clip below is the first very first broadcast of this debut performance of their unnamed robot anchor. So, please suspend judgement for a week or so until he overcomes those understandable opening night jitters – or glitches:
The Verge reports Xinhua is already dreaming up other “endless prospects” for this technology that can inexpensively generate news content, while saving untold yuan (their currency) on hairspray, pancake makeup, overtime, and most of all, talent coaching.
For radio, AI powered talent is nothing new. Way back in 2011, inventor Dominque Garcia unveiled “Denise,” the first text-to-speech DJ to mixed reviews. As we blogged at the time, this took voicetracking to the next level.
Dominique put together this Denise “aircheck” inclusively for our blog.
While Denise never caught on as big as Selector or Voltair, Garcia was on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence for broadcasting more than seven years ago. At the time, he came under a great deal of criticism (and was the butt of DJ jokes). He responded to my initial column with what has turned out to be a very prescient think piece about the role of the on-air personality, today and in the future. You can access it here.
For radio, a virtual DJ on the staff might come in handy for all those remotes (no talent fees!), overnights and other hard to schedule shifts, and someone to take over during station parties and events. And to my knowledge, there is no union for cyber jocks.
If you're on the air now, and worried about the prospects of being replaced by an AI DJ, it might be smart to spend extra time working on your delivery, especially if your PD has been saying you have a stiff, mechanical, or robotic delivery. Then again, as we learned in our AQ research study of 1,100+ human DJs (at least we think they were), 40% of air talent in this country are never airchecked anyway.
It might also be a good time to ensure you're doing everything to become what Seth Godin refers to as the station “linchpin” – willing and able to enthusiastically do whatever it takes to advance the cause of the station – that is, all the things Denise and this unnamed Chinese anchor AI cannot do…yet.
I'll be at Radio Ink‘s Forecast this week, hanging out with the industry's power brokers, movers and shakers, and glitterati. And if I start hearing murmurings about AI DJs, you can be sure I'll let you know.
Dominque Garcia might want to dust off those old sales kits.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.