For the first time, a Chinese news channel has employed an artificial intelligence robot as a weather reporter on its live breakfast show, raising concerns among the country's journalists as it could threaten their jobs.
"I'm happy to start my new work on the winter solstice," robot XiaoIce said during her debut on Tuesday morning.
XiaoIce is actually a piece of software developed by Microsoft using smart cloud and big data.
In the first two days of her work, XiaoIce impressed many with her cute voice. She also comments on big news events on Shanghai Dragon TV.
According to Microsoft, breakthroughs in text-to-speech artificial intelligence have helped XiaoIce score high points for linguistic naturalness, and hers is closer to the human voice than other speech synthesizers.
Through unique emotional technology, she can make comments instantly based on weather data.
After her successful debut, people are worried that XiaoIce could cause traditional TV anchors and weather reporters to lose their jobs, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Song Jiongming, director of TV news for the Shanghai Media Group, pointed out that human anchors will not be completely replaced by XiaoIce in the near term, but the robot will supplement humans with her big data analysis capability.
In September this year, Chinese social and gaming giant Tencent published its first business report written by a robot this week, stroking fears among local journalists as it could make forays into the state controlled media in China and oust them from work.
The "flawless" 916-word article was released via the company's QQ.com portal, an instant messaging service that wields much sway in China.
"The piece is very readable. I can't even tell it wasn't written by a person," Li Wei, a Reporter based in the Chinese manufacturing boomtown of Shenzhen told Hong Kong media.
It was written in Chinese and completed in just one minute by Dream writer, a Tencent-designedrobot journalist that apparently has few problems covering basic financial news.
Robot reporters could easily replace a lot of Chinese reporters like this nationwide, a Chinese journalist based in Guangzhou said.
"I've heard about robot reporters for a long time, but thought they only operated in the United States and Europe," Li said adding that "I'm not ready to compete with them yet."
More worryingly for local Chinese reporters, the threat to their careers may dwarf the one faced by their peers in other countries like US where robots are employed to write as China has only state-controlled media.
"You know, many reporters working for government-run newspapers across the country usually copy and paste the statements and news press. They are not allowed to express doubt or really investigate reports against the authorities," a Chinese reporter based in Guangzhou was quoted by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post as saying in September.
"So robot reporters could easily replace a lot of Chinese reporters like this nationwide," the reporter said.
The software powering the robots that write these stories uses algorithms designed to collate data, find patterns and pull quotes from sources by sifting through reams of material, including that found online, Wu Dekai, a former associate professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said.
The algorithms then learn to identify "turning points" -- the most dramatic moments in a sports game or a business transaction, and highlight them.
"We can build hundreds or even thousands of templates for different types of surprises - from sudden share movements to merger-and-acquisition deals," Wu said.
The robot workers take no holidays, miss no deadlines and produce clean, well-researched copy for as little as seven Dollars (Rs 462) an article in the United States. On top of that, the algorithms that power these machines are designed to catch errors and learn from their mistakes, the Post report said.