Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) featured a virtual host in its Spring Festival Web Gala show, published online on Monday, turning to an American artificial intelligence company to provide its technical capabilities.

The Web Gala introduced a virtual doppelgänger of CCTV’s Sa Beining, nicknamed “Xiao Sa,” to co-host the event. While his appearance and gestures were impressively lifelike, he talked in a noticeably robotic timbre.

The two-hour Web Gala is not to be confused with the trademark New Year’s Gala, which CCTV broadcasts live every lunar new year’s eve. However, they share similar themes: this year, the Web Gala’s slogan was “bring love back home,” tying in with the other event’s theme of homecoming.

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Bailey Hu

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.