China Sends AI Reporter to Cover the Rio Olympics — Blows Every Journalist Out of the Water

A robot news reporter from China, which delivered speedy and efficient reports during the recently concluded Olympics in Rio, was able to produce 450 news items throughout the 15-day event.

Covering mostly sports where Chinese athletes excel at such as badminton and table tennis, the AI newsbot was commended by users for its super fast delivery of news and ability to write and publish stories just minutes after an event ended.

Dubbed as the Xiaomingbot, the AI writing bot “wrote” around 30 – 40 articles per day during the Olympics, Quartz reported. Co-creator Toutiao, a search engine and news syndication service, claimed that its most productive day throughout the two-week competition was on August 14, when it published 58 news items. Co-inventor Peking University stated that it’s the first Chinese Artificial Intelligence software to report the Olympics.

The Toutiao smartphone app has gained 350 million users, with active users of around 35 million daily in China since its launch in 2012.

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While each post usually consisted of around 100 words, it is also able to construct long articles. One of its longest pieces was a 821-word article on the Chinese Women’s football tournament.

The bot’s AI directly sources its information from the Olympics database and turns them automatically into news pieces. While the articles come out extremely fast, some critics complain that the resulting work sounded too mechanical.

An article about a Badminton Women’s Singles game that was won by Chinese Olympian Wang Yihan was posted just within two minutes after the match.

The news read (in Chinese):

“China’s Wang Yihan won. The game last for 46 minutes, world ranking No.2 Wang played against world ranking Karin Schnaase. Wang finally won the Olympics badminton women’s singles with two matches. The game was held at Riocentro – Pavilion 4 on August 15, 2:30 am, Beijing local time.”

On online user commented, ”China’s Wang won’ is too robotic, it should be ‘Wang claimed the victory,’ okay? The wording is bad.”

Xiaomingbot is also set to follow the European Football Championship and report on the events match results.

While the Washington Post also used a similar robot AI during the Olympics called “Heliograf,” it mostly generated only short details consisting of game schedules, results, and top medal tallies instead of fully written news pieces.

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