Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched on Wednesday a cut-price voice assistant speaker, marking its first foray into artificially intelligent home devices.
The “Tmall Genie”, named after the group’s online platform Tmall, costs 499 yuan (US$73.4), significantly less than similiar devices from western counterparts such as Amazon and Google, whose offerings range from US$120 to US$180, Reuters reports.
The devices are activated by voice commands to perform tasks, such as checking calendars, searching for weather reports, changing music or control smart-home devices, using internet connectivity and artificial intelligence.
The Tmall Genie is currently programmed to use Mandarin as its language and will only be available in China. It is activated when a recognized user says “Tmall Genie” in Chinese.
In a streamed demonstration on Wednesday, engineers ordered the device to buy and deliver some Coca Cola, play music, add credit to a phone and activate a smart humidifier and TV.
The device, which comes in black and white, can also be tasked with purchasing goods from the company’s Tmall platform, a function similar to Amazon’s Echo device, the report said.
Alibaba has invested heavily in offline stores and big data capabilities in an effort to capitalize on the entire supply chain as part of its retail strategy.
The efforts have drawn comparisons with similar strategies adopted by Amazon, Reuters noted.
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