Beijing is bringing AI judges to court. The move, proclaimed by China as “the first of its kind in the world”, comes from the Beijing Internet Court, which has launched an online litigation service center featuring an artificially intelligent female judge, with a body, facial expressions, voice, and actions all modeled off a living, breathing human (one of the court’s actual female judges, to be exact). 

It’s actually not the first time China has unveiled computerized professionals — last year, State news agency Xinhua’s first English-speaking virtual anchor caused quite a stir among netizens (though that might have more to do with his strangely-constructed mouth movements or how he called Alibaba chairman Jack Ma “Jack Massachusetts”.)


Xinhua Unveils First English-Speaking Virtual News Anchor

But conspiracy theorists can breathe a sigh of relief — the AI apocalypse is not nigh (yet). This virtual judge, whose abilities are based on intelligent speech and image synthesizing technologies, is to be used for the completion of “repetitive basic work” only, according to the Beijing Internet Court’s official statement on the move. That means she’ll mostly be dealing with litigation reception and online guidance. Other features of the online service center include a mobile micro-court and an official Weitao (Taobao’s social-media service for brands) account.

Rather than replacing human-populated courts, Beijing’s Internet Court’s stated mission is to use new technology to provide more effective, more widely-reaching public services. According to court president Zhang Wen, integrating AI and cloud computing with the litigation service system will allow the public to better reap the benefits of technological innovation in China. 


China Exports Facial Scan Tech to Zimbabwe, Launches First “AI Technology Entry to Africa”

AI assistance has already been employed in Chinese courts since early 2019, although involvement has typically only included the presentation of case-related evidence and research aid.

For the first time in China, #AI assistive technology was used in a trial at Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People’s Court on Wed, the Legal Daily reported. When the judge, public prosecutor or defender asked the AI system, it displayed all related evidence on a courtroom screen.

— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) January 25, 2019

Indeed, human-machine collaboration lies at the heart of a number of currently unfolding Chinese public-works projects. “Robots” and other forms of AI are being used in China for a wide range of menial tasks, from sorting ecommerce parcels to performing maintenance on bullet trains. 

Cover image: Stock photo (not the AI judge in question) 


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