Typography

Chinese e-commerce colossus Alibaba has taken its first venture into developing artificial intelligence home devices by launching its voice assistant speaker, which has drawn comparisons to Amazon’s ‘Echo’.


Alibaba’s voice assistant which will be a low-cost device has been named ‘The T-mall Genie’ after its e-commerce platform T-mall. It will retail at $73.42 which is significantly less than that of its US competitors Amazon and Google’s Alphabet which range between $120-$180 dollars. 

The ‘smart home’ voice assistants are activated by voice commands to perform daily tasks such as searching for weather reports, changing music, using AI to control other ‘smart home’ devices. China’s top technology firms have all expressed their ambitions to become global leaders in relation to AI – which has been evidenced by companies like Amazon and Alibaba increasingly competing in the same markets.

China’s search engine colossus Baidu, has also invested heavily in emerging technologies, and recently announced its investment with the Chinese government for an artificial intelligence lab, whilst it recently launched its own device which was based on its own Siri-like ‘Duer OS system’.

Alibaba’s ‘T-mall Genie has been specifically programmed to use Mandarin as its language and will only be available in China. It is activated when a user recognized by the system utters the words ‘T-mall Genie’ in Chinese. In a demonstration which was streamed live, engineers ordered the device to perform a series of tasks such as order some Coco-Cola, play music, add credit to a phone and activate a smart humidifier and TV.

In addition to its foray into AI devices, Alibaba has continued to invest heavily in offline stores and big data capabilities in an effort to capitalize on the entire supply chain as part of its retail strategy. Analysts have claimed it has striking similarities to strategies already adopted by Amazon.