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China's 'Robot Goddess' does live interview with US journalist

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-04-25 17:16

China's 'Robot Goddess' does live interview with US journalist

China's human-like robot, named Jia Jia, did a live "interview" with Kevin Kelly, a famous US journalist and technology observer, on Monday. [Photo/Xinhua]

HEFEI - China's human-like robot, named Jia Jia, did a live "interview" with Kevin Kelly, a famous US journalist and technology observer, on Monday.

The interview was hailed by scientific experts as "having symbolic significance" as it is the world's first interactive conversation between an "artificial intelligence (AI) reporter" and a human being.

First AI reporter

"Jia Jia, can you sing or play me some music?" Kelly, co-founder of the tech magazine Wired, asked in a one-on-one conversation with the AI robot.

"You can get them yourself," Jia Jia answered wittily.

Wearing a traditional Chinese women's fashion, the eye-catching robot looked astonishingly realistic, and was even blinking and smiling during the entire interview.

"Do you like me?" Jia Jia asked.

"Yes," Kelly replied.

"I think so," said Jia Jia.

These conversations were conducted via Skype from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in Hefei in east China's Anhui province. Its content was not pre-arranged or designed in any way.

Kelly has been following the development of AI for years, and one of his conditions to receive Jia Jia's interview is not to control the content of their dialogue.

"It's good for Jia Jia to take up such a challenge," said Professor Chen Xiaoping, director of the Robotics Laboratory at the USTC.

"I would give her 70 points (out of a hundred) for her performance," said Chen, Jia Jia's head developer.

Chen believed Jia Jia's "interview" with Kelly had great significance for the research and development of AI robots.

"There were some delays and confusions due to the (Skype) network. Apart from that, I think the conversation was successful," Chen said, adding Jia Jia's response to some questions are quick and satisfactory.

Besides Kelly, Jia Jia had also made interactive conversations on Monday with several computer experts and media representatives, including Bart Selman, Professor of Computer Science Department of Cornell University.

"How old are you?" Selman questioned the humanoid robot, who responded in a joking tone that "Girl's age is a secret." While asked about what she is looking forward to as a robot, Jia Jia replied, "I am looking forward to Friday, my paycheck (day)."

Selman said that Jia Jia, the first AI reporter as far as he knows, could help people peek into the future of the fast growing artificial intelligence.

Robot goddess

Dubbed "robot goddess," Jia Jia has a beautiful face, long flowing locks and rosy red cheeks, looking very much like a real woman.

The human-like robot from China is designed with natural eye movement and speech, which is in synchronization with its lip movement.

The life-like robot was first trotted out in 2016 by Chen and his research and development team at the USTC, which also developed the model service robot "Kejia."

According to Chen, it took the team three years to develop on the basis of research this new-generation interactive robot, which can speak, show micro-expressions, move its lips and move its body.

The AI robot is programmed to learn skills, recognize human faces and interaction and is equipped with a cloud-based system for memory storage.

She was able to accurately answer a query about the day's weather, hold basic conversations and recognize the gender of her questioners.

The interview on Jia Jia, initiated and live streamed by Xinhua, could have some symbolic significance for the future news-gathering and interview, said Jin Jianbin, a professor with the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University.

Though rapid advancements have been made in artificial intelligence over recent years, Chen and Jin believe, AI robots could not replace human journalists in the short term as they still lack the ability of planning and creativity.

However, both of the experts saw a bright future for AI development.

Just as Kelly has said, as for AI development, "we are at the beginning of the beginning -- the first hour of day one. The greatest products of the next 25 years have not been invented yet."

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