Virtual Spokespeople Get Real

Ukraine’s New Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman is a ‘Digital Person’

While a number of news media outlets have been using digital news avatars for a number of years, Ukraine became the first country to designate a ‘digital personality’ as an official spokesperson.

Dubbed ‘Victoria,’ the cyber persona has been entrusted to make official government statements for Ukraine’s foreign ministry.

Interestingly, while AI is used to render and animate Victoria’s image, her statements will be written — and pre-verified — by humans employed by Ukraine’s foreign ministry press service.

Victoria’s credibility will also be enhanced by an anti-fraud QR code, which will lead to the text version of what Victoria is saying on the foreign ministry’s Web site.

Bottom line: This is a big deal, given that a major country
on the world’s political stage is entrusting a synthetic personality to often make life-and-death statements impacting humans.

In a phrase, world leaders, Ukrainian soldiers ducking mortar shells on the battlefield — and screaming school children huddling in subways as bombs drop from above — will need to trust their lives to what Victoria says.

*In-Depth Guide: Unleashing Your Inner Ventriloquist: Best AI Voice Tools Ranked: Writers looking to parlay their work into podcasts, videos, slideshow voice-overs and the like will want to check-out this guide to the best in text-to-voice tools.

The verdict from writer Alice Martin: The best AI voice generators use advanced AI that produce voices that sound incredibly human.

They can also use “a variety of presets — or even clone your own voice — making AI voices popular for projects such as virtual assistants, video games, professional voice-overs and social media content,” Martin adds.

*AI Now Crafts Fictional Characters While You Nap: AI pioneer Sudowrite is promising a new module writers can use to auto-build personality traits, background, physical appearances and mannerisms for fictional characters.

Also promised is a new world-building tool that will enable writers to auto-design fictional worlds ranging from dystopian cities to magical realms.

The AI tool — which uses AI engines like GPT-4 and Claude 3 to work its magic — will also be enhanced system-wide to enable writers to auto-generate fiction more efficiently.

*Elon Musk Serves-Up AI Cliff Notes for X Users: Social network X — formerly Twitter — now features news summaries generated by AI, dubbed ‘Stories on X.’

Observes writer Karissa Bell: “X is using Grok (a ChatGPT competitor) to publish AI-generated summaries of news and other topics that trend on the platform.

“According to X, Grok relies on users’ posts to generate the text snippets.

“Some seem to be more news-focused — while others are summaries of conversations happening on the platform itself.”

Both X and Grok are owned by Elon Musk.

*University of Texas to Grammarly: Be Our Guest: Add UT to the list of universities that have decided to give AI a full bear hug.

Specifically, the institution is now working with AI writing assistant Grammarly to find ways to integrate AI into higher education.

Observes Art Markman, vice provost, academic affairs: “We are in an era with a lot of uncertainty surrounding AI and education.

“This is a chance to demonstrate how to use generative AI as a positive source for education, teach responsibility to our students and engage an industry leader to improve our understanding of classroom AI.”

*Say Goodbye to Snoozeworthy: Facebook Parent Promises New AI Ad Tool: Meta is promising a new AI tool that will enable advertisers to auto-generate images and copy for their products and services.

Observes writer Kimberley Kao: “The new features will eventually allow its (Meta’s) 10 million advertisers to upload images of their products to generate new versions of the images and accompanying text for marketing purposes.”

Digital properties owned by Meta featuring advertising include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Reels and Threads.

*A Look Into the Belly of the Beast: AI and the Smearing of Sports Illustrated: Futurism takes a long, hard look at Advon in this piece — the AI content writing firm that tried to pass-off fake descriptions of journalists as human writers for Sports Illustrated.

Observes writer Maggie Harrison Dupre: “The response was explosive: The magazine’s union wrote that it was ‘horrified,’ while its publisher cut ties with AdVon and subsequently fired its CEO before losing the rights to Sports Illustrated entirely.”

Turns-out that even after the Sports Illustrated debacle, Advon is still at it, striking “deals with publishers in which it provides huge numbers of low-quality product reviews — often for surprisingly prominent publications,” Dupre adds.

*Second Fiddle: Microsoft Building AI Engine ‘Nearly as Good’ as ChatGPT: Tech titan Microsoft is promising to roll-out an AI engine soon that will be nearly as good as ChatGPT, Google Gemini and similar competitors.

Observes Reuters: “The exact purpose of the model has not been determined yet and will depend on how well it performs.

“Microsoft could preview the new model as soon as its Build developer conference later this month.”

*New Study: The Promise and Perils of AI and Journalism: A new report from Northwestern University finds that AI-generated content could spell the end of many writing jobs.

Observes writer Mark Caro: “Many people who practice or care about journalism fear that generative AI — with its ability to create content with little human involvement — could be the final nail in the local news coffin.

“Given how some chain owners have prioritized cost-cutting and profit-making over sustained journalistic quality, what is to stop them from replacing more reporters and editors with robots?

“Can news consumers be relied upon to discern between human-reported journalism and machine-generated content—and does it matter?”

Unfortunately, for many writers and journalists, that question has already been answered.

*AI Big Picture: Randy Travis Gets His Voice Back — With a Little Help from AI: World-famous country singer Randy Travis — who lost his voice to a stroke in 2013 — has a new single out.

Entitled, “Where That Came From,” the new song was put together by AI, which sampled recordings of Travis’ songs to create the all-AI production.

Observes writer Wes Davis: “Travis’ song is a good, edge-case example of AI being used to make music that actually feels legitimate.

“But on the other hand, it also may open a new path for Warner, which owns the rights to vast catalogs of music from famous, dead artists that are ripe for digital resurrection and — if they want to go there — potential profit.

“As heartwarming as this story is, it makes me wonder what lessons Warner Music Nashville — and the record industry as a whole — will take away from this song.”

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Joe Dysart is editor of and a tech journalist with 20+ years experience. His work has appeared in 150+ publications, including The New York Times and the Financial Times of London.

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