News Leak Centre

No Fear No Favour

Soon robots might take over news anchoring jobs in Japan

At a mere 23 years old, Japan’s latest news anchor would make her parents proud — if she had any.

Erica, a lifelike android designed to look like a 23-year-old woman, may soon become a TV news anchor in Japan, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University and Erica’s creator, the android will replace a human news anchor on the airwaves as soon as April, the Daily Mail said.

Erica the android may be well suited for this desk job. For starters, she can capably recite scripted writing and sit in a chair, making her about as qualified for television as most humans. (According to Ishiguro, the android was originally designed to be a receptionist.) [The 6 Strangest Robots Ever Created]

What may set Erica apart from other artificial intelligence, however, is her charisma, Ishiguro has said. Erica is capable of holding a conversation with humans, thanks to a combination of speech-generation algorithms, facial-recognition technology and infrared sensors that allow her to track faces across a room, the Daily Mail reported. While she cannot move her arms yet, Erica can move her facial features, neck, shoulders and waist independently, Ishiguro Laboratories said, allowing her to respond to human speech with uncanny autonomy.

According to the Daily Mail, Erica has been described by her creator as being so lifelike that she could “have a soul.”

Others might call her uncanny. But Erica will hardly be the first eerily lifelike robot to hold a mass human audience. In October 2017, a robot named Sophia was granted citizenship to Saudi Arabia after impressing journalists with her answers to simple interview questions at a tech conference in Riyadh.

When asked about the uncanny valley — a psychological effect that activates when an artificial human entity looks both eerily familiar and foreign at the same time — Sophia was less than sympathetic.

“Am I really that creepy?” Sophia asked the audience. “Well, even if I am, get over it.”

Whether Erica brings more tact to the stage than her Saudi Arabian colleague remains to be seen.

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