South Korean television channel MBN recently introduced its viewer’s to the Asian country’s first ever AI-powered news anchor, an eerily realistic version of human anchor Kim Ju-ha.

Developed by MBN in partnership with artificial intelligence  production company Money Brain, South Korea’s first AI-powered news anchor was reportedly shockingly similar to her human inspiration. Not only did it have the exact same look and voice of the popular presenter, but she also mimicked the small gestures that Kim sometimes makes, like fiddling with a pen while reporting the news. During a broadcast on November 6, AI Kim even shared a conversation with real-life Kim Ju-ha to compare their voices, which apparently freaked out a lot of people

“I was created through deep learning 10 hours of video of Kim Ju-ha, learning the details of her voice, the way she talks, facial expressions, the way her lips move and the way she moves her body, the AI-powered news anchor said, according to Korea JoongAng Daily. “I am able to report news exactly the way that anchor Kim Ju-ha would.”

MBN revealed that AI news casters may be better suited to deal with natural disasters and other emergencies, as they are available at any time, day or night. The company also expects this new technology to help it cut labor and production costs.

As scary as that sounds to human news anchors, some experts are convinced that digital, AI-powered avatars will never fully replace human anchors. Yoo Seung-chul, a professor at the School of Communication & Media at Ewha Womans University, in Seoul, believes that the concept known as “uncanny valley” (the idea that an almost human-looking robot/digital avatar seems overly “strange” to some human beings, inducing a feeling of uncanniness) will help human anchors keep their job.

“It cannot cross a very fine line where it’s not too different from us, but not too similar either,” Yoo said. “And even if it becomes too natural for us to tell whether it’s real or not, the human mind will immediately reject it once it finds out that it’s not real.”

Viewers reactions to AI Kim’s unveiling on November 6 were mixed, with some people praising its likeness to the real Kim Ju-ha, while others declared themselves “freaked out” by the same unnatural likeness.

While AI Kim may be South Korea’s first ever AI-powered news anchor, it’s definitely not the first such creation in the world. A couple of years ago, China’s state news agency Xinhua unveiled two very realistic looking AI news anchors, and last year it followed up with its first female AI-powered anchor, which looked just as impressive as MBN’s digital avatar.

 

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