Victoria Shi
Ukraine has introduced Victoria Shi, an AI-backed news anchor, who will provide timely updates on the Russian war. Twitter / MFA of Ukraine @MFA_Ukraine

Ukraine has launched an AI-powered spokesperson to communicate developments related to Russia's invasion. Victoria Shi, the virtual spokesperson, draws inspiration from both the word "victory" and the Ukrainian abbreviation for "AI."

She is modeled after Ukrainian singer and influencer Rosalie Nombre, who generously volunteered her likeness for the project. This AI-powered avatar is clad entirely in black and adorned with a Ukrainian flag pin. She sports studded earrings and pulled-back hair.

However, it is worth noting that the avatar is distinct from Rosalie Nombre. Officials have emphasised that they are separate entities. In a video released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Shi took center stage, introducing herself and outlining her role: To protect "the rights and interests of Ukrainian citizens abroad."

In a translated statement, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba explained that the decision to introduce an AI spokesperson for the MFA arose from wartime demands, not from caprice.

Filling Real-World Gaps with Virtual Solutions

"After all, to achieve the results necessary for the country, it is necessary to speed up all processes and be one step ahead," he said.

In her video message, Shi addressed her role as a representative for Ukraine's MFA, stating: "My job will be to report operational and verified information of the consular department of the MFA of Ukraine to the public."

Outlining her duties, Shi pledged to keep journalists informed about consular efforts to safeguard Ukrainian citizens' rights abroad, address emergencies, and provide other pertinent updates.

The MFA incorporates a QR code at the video's conclusion to combat hacking and ensure authenticity. Scanning this code will direct viewers to the statement's official text version on the government website.

The MFA emphasized that only videos featuring a QR code linking to the official government website statement are considered authentic. They further clarified that Shi is an additional resource, not a replacement for human Ukrainian MFA spokespersons.

According to Kuleba, Shi's arrival will allow Ukrainian leaders to shift their focus from assisting citizens to other important tasks. "Diplomacy, not only in Ukraine but throughout the world, has always been a conservative field that was the last to introduce innovations," he said.

"We are changing that," Kuleba added. Ukrainian diplomacy is undergoing a radical transformation, embracing new technologies like no other diplomatic service has. In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, accusing the Eastern European country of being governed by neo-Nazis.

The Future: A Blended Reality?

President Vladimir Putin said he was sending in troops to "demilitarise and denasify" Ukraine. Ukraine's introduction of a human spokesperson for the MFA moves alongside the growing trend of AI news anchors being introduced in other countries.

China, India, Greece, Kuwait, and Taiwan are at the forefront of using AI news anchors in their newsrooms. These lifelike anchors can offer some unique advantages over traditional news anchors as AI-powered anchors can seamlessly navigate their environment while exhibiting intricate facial expressions. They can also adapt their attire and hairstyles to suit various scenarios.

Last year, Odisha TV, an Indian news station, introduced Lisa, an AI-generated anchor. The station's managing director, Jagi Mangat Panda, told the China Morning Post that Lisa would be helpful in the newsroom. Lisa utilises the power of AI and machine learning algorithms to deliver news, combining technology with journalism.

The rapid development of AI technology is blurring the lines between reality and the virtual world. For example, an AI company has created avatar teachers to address the teacher shortage in Europe. Similarly, another tech company is allowing users to develop digital clones that can perform tasks like attending Zoom calls.