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Has Automation Gone Too Far? Netizens Have Thoughts About South Korea's AI News Anchor

South Korean cable channel MBN has virtually replicated one of their news anchors with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Cover image via Korea JoongAng Daily & Kyodo News

A recent study revealed that more than 85 million jobs will be redundant in the next five years due to automation.

It looks like we can no longer deny the forecast as even the job of a news anchor has been automated in South Korea now.

According to Korea JoongAng Daily, South Korean cable channel MBN became the first broadcaster in the country to report the news with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

MBN has turned its news anchor Kim Ju-ha into an AI entity that is fully controllable by the company.

It is said that the virtual news anchor — dubbed as AI Kim — is almost identical to her human counterpart, both in terms of looks, nuance, and the sound of her voice.

Even Kim's usual fiddling of a pen during reporting and other small gestures have been mimicked to close perfection.

"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," said AI Kim, adding, "I am able to report news exactly the way that anchor Kim Ju-ha would."

An MBN official said using the technology will "enable quick news delivery in times of emergency for 24 hours non-stop", reported The Korean Bizwire.

MBN news anchor Kim Ju-ha.

Image via Newsway

On 6 November, Kim ran a side-by-side test with her AI counterpart during a live broadcast, hinting at the end of the trial that she hopes the technology will not be perfected so soon

In the less than two-minute long segment, Kim had the AI news anchor repeat after her, reading some sample lines from the news.

News anchor Kim Ju-ha and her virtual counterpart AI Kim.

Image via MBN News (YouTube)

Kim tried it with lines consisting of names, foreign words, as well as daily exchanges used in human-to-human conversation. The AI news anchor repeated each word perfectly without any hiccups.

"The pronunciation is correct, but the emotional part seems to be a little bit less like a human," Kim said.

"Of course, an AI anchor can deliver the news faster than humans, but we'll have to wait and see whether they can also capture feelings and emotions." 

"Personally, it'll be easier if that day comes later."

South Koreans have mixed feelings about the use of this technology

Image via Cho Sun

Some netizens have a positive outlook on the AI news anchor, saying, "I noticed that the lines and the news content are similar throughout the day except only the newscasters change. At this point, maybe an AI might be better."

"Is there a need for actual newscasters? I don't really think there is a need since AI programmes might articulate words better than humans," said another comment, as translated by allkpop.

Meanwhile, some people are concerned that their jobs will be replaced by AI one day.

"I'm afraid that the AI system might replace not only the newscasters but the producers, camera directors, coordinators, and writers," said a person, while another added, "This is bad, now robots will be delivering news instead of actual announcers. Then later, even surgeries will be conducted by AI."

Interestingly, some netizens also jokingly said they want their favourite idols to read them news from now on.

"I want to hear the news that's given by Yoo In Na or even IU," a netizen said.

"Now we can see Kim Tae Hee and Son Ye Jin as the announcers?" another suggested.

Watch Kim talk with her AI counterpart here:

You can enable YouTube auto-generated English subtitles by clicking on the setting icon on the video control bar.

Last month, a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that the COVID-19 pandemic has fastened the growth of automation and digitalisation in the workforce:

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