Curio Secures Funds for Launch of Rio

AI is gradually making its mark in the newsroom, with prominent outlets such as Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Gizmodo, VentureBeat, CNET experimenting with AI-generated articles. While many traditional journalists oppose this trend, several startups believe AI can enrich the news consumption experience for users. The latest entrant in this arena is Rio, an “AI news anchor” aimed at helping readers engage with stories and topics of interest from credible sources. 

Developed by the team behind Curio, an AI-powered audio journalism startup, Rio was unveiled at the recent South by Southwest Festival in Austin. The app has secured funding from Khosla Ventures and Chris Anderson, the head of TED and a supporter of Curio. (The exact amount of funding has not been disclosed as the funding round is ongoing.)

Curio, founded in 2016 by ex-BBC strategist Govind Balakrishnan and London lawyer Srikant Chakravarti, introduced Rio as an extension of Curio’s AI technology. 

Initially integrated as a feature within Curio’s app, Rio scours headlines from reputable sources like Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Washington Post, and more, compiling them into a daily news briefing available in both text and audio formats.

Moreover, Rio is designed to prevent users from being confined to an echo chamber by actively seeking out diverse perspectives on topics, fostering deeper understanding and exploration.

Curio Rio app

During testing, Rio showcased its daily briefing through a Story-like interface, complete with graphics and clickable links to news articles at the bottom of the screen. Upon tapping on these links, users could listen to the full articles narrated by an AI voice, maintaining the integrity of the original content. Navigation through the headlines mimicked the familiar experience of tapping through a Story on social media platforms like Instagram.

Read More: Parloa Secures $66 Million Investment to Drive Conversational AI Innovation

Curio emphasizes that Rio’s AI technology strictly adheres to principles of accuracy and integrity. It assures users that Rio will not generate fabricated information and will solely reference content from trusted publisher partners. Additionally, Rio commits to not utilizing publisher content to trains large language models (LLMs) without explicit consent.

news stories

In addition to the daily briefing, Rio offers an AI chatbot interface for further interaction, allowing users to inquire about various topics of interest. Suggestions for topics like “TikTok ban” or “Ukraine War” are conveniently displayed as small pills above the text input box. While we observed occasional delays in the AI’s response time, overall, it delivered as anticipated.

Furthermore, Rio extends its capabilities by offering to generate audio episodes in response to user queries, providing an additional avenue for users to delve deeper into their interests.

ask Rio

Co-founder Balakrishnan revealed that since Rio was introduced as a feature within Curio last May, users have posed over 20,000 questions to the AI. This considerable user engagement played a significant role in the company’s decision to spin out the technology into its own dedicated app.

In a statement released around Rio’s debut at SXSW, Chakravarti noted “AI has us all wondering what’s true and what’s not. You can scan AI sites for quick answers, but trusting them blindly is a bit of a gamble. Reliable knowledge is hard to come by. Only a lucky few get access to fact-checked, verified information. Rio guides you through the news, turning everyday headlines from trusted sources into knowledge. Checking the news with Rio leaves you feeling fulfilled instead of down.”

While it’s uncertain if Rio has achieved the level of user retention necessary to sustain itself as a standalone product, it’s conceivable that similar interfaces could be integrated into larger news aggregators such as Google News or Apple News, or even onto individual publishers’ websites in the future. Meanwhile, Curio will persist in its endeavors, maintaining a focus on audio news delivery.

Read More: Meta AI Evaluation: Free Access But Questionable Effectiveness

Competition

In the quest to elevate the news consumption experience through AI, Curio finds itself among a cohort of startups pursuing similar ambitions. Particle, spearheaded by former Twitter engineers, aims to revolutionize news reading through AI technology and has garnered significant backing, securing $4.4 million in funding. Bulletin, another AI-powered news application, has emerged with a mission to combat clickbait while providing concise news summaries. Additionally, Artifact, which integrated AI into its platform, made waves before being acquired by TechCrunch’s parent company, Yahoo. 

These ventures collectively illustrate the burgeoning interest and investment in leveraging AI to reshape how news is consumed and interacted with.

Rio is currently in its early access phase, requiring an invitation for access. Alternatively, interested users can join the app’s waitlist at rionews.ai. The company intends to roll out a public launch later this summer. As a token of appreciation for reading to the end, five lucky individuals can utilize the provided invite link for immediate access.