The Tmall Genie, Alibaba’s new AI voice assistant (image source: bot.tmall.com)
Alibaba, China’s huge online retailer, recently announced plans for its own AI-powered voice assistant speaker called “Tmall Genie.” The device will be similar to Amazon’s hugely popular “Echo,” but will be priced significantly less at 499 Yuan (about $74). In comparison, Echo costs 179.99.
Tmall Genie is named after the Tmall, Alibaba’s online shopping platform. Like Echo, Tmall Genie is expected to be powered by AI software. Echo works based on an AI personal assistant called Alexa. Tmall Genie will be programmed in Mandarin Chinese and will only be sold in China. It gets activated when the user says “Tmall Genie” in Mandarin. The device will be able to perform tasks such as control smart home devices, connect to the internet, check the calendar or recite weather reports.
During Alibaba’s press event for the release of Tmall Genie, demonstrators used the device to play music, deliver a soft drink, activate a smart TV and a humidifier, and add credit to a mobile plan. Tmall Genie will be available in black or white, much like the Echo. Also similarly, users will be able to place orders on Alibaba’s ecommerce site using Tmall Genie.
Tmall Genie is the latest endeavor by a Chinese company to join the AI smart device market, currently dominated by U.S. companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google. Also recently, Baidu, the Chinese search engine counterpart to Google, released the Duer OS, a voice-based personal assistant like Apple’s Siri.