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Weird World: Russian TV station unveils a robot news anchor

Russian state news channel Rossiya 24 has introduced a robot presenter for some of its bulletins.

According to a report by BBC, ‘Alex’ the robot has already caused a stir, with some viewers complaining about his appearance and accusing him of peddling political propaganda.

The robot was developed by a company known as Promobot in Russia. His silicon head is modeled on the face of the company’s co-founder Alexei Yuzhakov.

At the moment, the robot anchor can only move his facial features and neck. However, the final robot will have fully mobile limbs as well and Alex will be fully complete later this year, according to Promobot.

It said Alex had cost more than one million roubles ($15,600; £12,000) to develop and that it had received orders for 12 more humanoids.

Rossiya 24 said its newest presenter was of Russian origin with “software and almost all of its components produced inside the country”. Alex has delivered a number of bulletins for the channel, presenting news items about agriculture, a nuclear technology forum, and micro-finance.

“Meet Rossiya 24’s new anchor, robot Alex. Artificial intelligence, a talent for propaganda and an integrated fake news generator is available right in your box,” one viewer said on Twitter.

Others mocked Alex’s slightly rough appearance and clothes, his off-focus gaze, and awkward facial expressions.
“Alex, if they are holding you hostage and force you to drink alcohol, wink three times when you go on the air!” urged a viewer online. One viewer took a shine to Alex and said he was a “very nice robot” while another said his deployment was “an interesting trend”.

Most observers think on-air Alex is a temporary stunt to inject some fun and promote innovative Russian technology in TV news. “For the first time a robot appeared as a news presenter on TV channel Rossiya 24,” the channel said on its website. “It is for TV viewers to decide how he performed. Could robots replace journalists?” it asked.

This latest development is not the first time robots have been integrated into human society.

In 2018, a robot walked London Fashion Week, as part of a revolutionary fashion show staged by Honee Persona and OhmniLabs Robotics Company. According to a report by Business Insider, Honee Persona had lots to say about what inspired her to incorporate a robot into her show. Speaking about her decision Persona said, “I want to bring an awareness that AI, as wonderful as technology is, it can never replace human beings. We have energy. We are the creator.”

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