Chinese state media debuts 'AI' news anchors

This photo illustration shows a man watching an artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor from a state-controlled news broadcaster, on his computer in Beijing on November 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2018
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Chinese state media debuts 'AI' news anchors

  • The AI anchor is part of a major push by China to advance its prowess in AI tech

WUZHEN, China: Chinese news readers may have some new competition — artificially intelligent robot anchors that can mimic human facial expressions and mannerisms while reading out reports.
The AI anchor, developed by state news agency Xinhua and tech firm Sogou Inc, was on display at the World Internet Conference in the eastern Chinese town of Wuzhen, drawing in curious passers-by.
The anchor, modelled on real-life Chinese news reader Qiu Hao and sporting a black suit and red tie, is part of a major push by China to advance its prowess in AI technology, from surveillance equipment to self-driving cars.
In another video presentation from Xinhua, a different robot presenter said it was his “very first day” at the news agency and promised to “work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted.”
At the Internet summit, Sogou marketing staff said it wasn’t clear when the technology would actually go into use, but crowds gathered nonetheless to take selfies with the digital anchor and Qiu himself who was at the event.
The conference is China’s top tech event of the year, and has in the past attracted names like Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet Inc. head Sundar Pichai.
This year’s iteration, however, which opened on Wednesday, was more muted and has a less glitzy global line-up, even as battle lines for control of the web have hardened amid a biting trade war between China and the United States.
Foreign websites such as Alphabet’s Google and Facebook Inc. are blocked in China, where authorities also tightly control online content and censor or punish those who post material seen as opposed to “core socialist values.”


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
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Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.