Lifelike robot gets TV news anchor gig

The most robotic job in the world is officially going to a robot.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

It's tough to see good jobs lost to automation, but this is one most aren't likely to mourn.

A robot named Erica is due to become an on-air news anchor in Japan.

Erica is a lifelike android created by Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University and a prominent, if controversial, figure in the robotics world. (Dr. Ishiguro was recently profiled in a WIRED article about the future of human-robot intimacy.)

Erica is designed to look like a 23-year-old Japanese woman. Much like today's flesh-and-blood newsreaders, the robot will recite scripts on-air while sitting behind a news desk.

But the android is much more than an animatronic puppet. Like Sophia, the Hanson Robotics android that captured international attention after being granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia, Erica is equipped with speech recognition and armed with speech generation algorithms, enabling it to have live exchanges with humans.

Facial recognition and infrared sensors allow the robot to track faces around a room.

Erica was originally designed to be a receptionist, but Dr. Ishiguro, a master of hype, has arranged an as-yet undisclosed news reading gig on Japanese television.

"We're going to replace one of the newscasters with the android," he said.

Microsoft had a similar idea when it created Xiaoice, an AI voice application that appeared as a weather forecaster on China's Morning News in early 2016.

All of this gives stark new context to the notion of "talking heads."

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