i-Sanj: Kazakh TV channel introduces its first virtual news anchor

i-Sanj: Kazakh TV channel introduces its first virtual news anchor

21 February 2020

Remember I, Robot? Meet i-Sanj, the new AI-generated news presenter for Kazakh television channel Atameken Business. I-Sanj, named after Kazakh actor Sanjar Madi who acted as a model for the pixel-based pundit, will host the daily financial news at the end of the channel’s The Daily Format news show.

i-Sanj’s first day on the job was on 19 February, the result of work by a specially-designated team of local developers and IT specialists from Atameken Business Media Holding.

His creators say they hope that i-Sanj’s debut will place Kazakhstan at the forefront of AI innovation. “Virtual hosts are the reality of today,” said the holding’s CEO, Kanat Sahariya. Others are more sceptical, with some viewers expressing concerns about the avatar’s robotic-like tone, not to mention the potential job losses for the presenter’s human counterparts. Sahariya has done little to allay concerns for the long term, saying that i-Sanj “is yet to learn how to deliver realistic emotions, [and] all human hosts have their jobs secured, at least for now.”

The introduction of the AI-powered host has taken place the same week that the Kazakh government refused to accredit two journalists from RFE/RL’s Kazakh service, the latest of a series of efforts to interfere with free press.​

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