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Japanese mayor suddenly speaks fluent English with AI video that surprises even him


The city with Japan’s largest U.S. naval base gets an English-speaking AI mayor.

There’s been a lot of talk about AI and its potential dangers for the worldwide community. However, for one mayor in Japan, the new technology is being embraced as a way to become a full-blown member of that global community, as it enables him to speak fluent English without having to even learn a word of it.

The new technology is being put to use in press conference videos by Yokosuka City Mayor Katsuaki Uechi that are designed to disseminate information to the local community. With Yokosuka being home to Japan’s largest U.S. naval base, the city is keen to increase its English-language communications, incorporating AI into its arsenal by using it to create an avatar of the mayor that speaks fluent English.

▼ The results are mind-blowing, with the first video, released in April, showing just how well it mimics the mayor, matching both his appearance and voice, with the mouth even moving perfectly to match the shape of the English words being spoken.

When the video was first unveiled at a press conference at Yokosuka City Hall on 23 April, Mayor Uechi, who says he barely speaks English, told reporters he was impressed by the avatar and the way it made him look like a fluent English speaker. He also expressed his desire for it to do good, with plans for it to share important information regarding disaster prevention measures and to help people during times of disaster, while also presenting it to the world as “a message for peace”.

▼ Don’t be afraid — I come in peace.

Yokosuka City says AI learned the appearance, behaviour, and voice quality of the mayor in order to create a mayor avatar, and the English-speaking capabilities are achieved once his speech is translated and input into the AI’s generative learning.

While the AI mayor will be mostly conducting monthly press conferences, its latest appearance came in May, when the avatar helped to introduce events happening around the city.

The AI mayor will continue to appear on the city’s official YouTube channel, approximately 10 days after the mayor’s monthly Japanese press conferences. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the avatar, not just for information about Yokosuka, but to make sure it doesn’t head over to the dark side. If it does get angry, though, there’s an AI filter to counter that…although that might incite a war between AIs.

Source: Asahi, PR Times, YouTube/横須賀市公式チャンネル
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: PR Times
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