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Alibaba debuts smart speaker that knows only Mandarin

Alibaba debuts smart speaker that knows only Mandarin
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has introduced a smart speaker called the Tmall Genie tailored for Chinese-speaking users only.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has introduced a smart speaker called the Tmall Genie tailored for Chinese-speaking users only.

Alibaba’s smart speaker functions just like Amazon Echo and Google Home – a hardware device which is powered by an AI voice assistant helping users on various tasks. It only has a different name.

The device itself is named the Tmall Genie (or Tianmao Jingling X1 in Chinese). The voice assistant is called the AliGenie, and the wake-up word is “Tmall Genie” in Mandarin. Tmall is an online shopping website operated by Alibaba.

From a design perspective, the device looks similar to Amazon Echo – a black cylinder with a bottom light ring which turns on while being activated. For now, the device only speaks Mandarin.

Some Chinese companies have already entered the smart speaker market. Internet giant Baidu has introduced the Xiaoyu Zaijia, while JD.com has LingLong DingDong. In other words, Alibaba is not a pioneer in this market in China. Nonetheless, its e-commerce base could help Alibaba climb to the top faster.

Thanks to the company’s computing technologies, data and e-commerce resources, the smart speaker already has hundreds of skills for music, entertainment, online shopping, fitness and education tasks, according to the company.

At the product launch event, the company showed the speakers’ capabilities by asking the voice assistant to buy and deliver sodas, play music, add credit to a mobile phone and activate connected gadgets such as a smart humidifier and smart TV.

Now that the smart speaker is linked to the main online shopping site in China, consumers may be tempted to place orders via voice.

The Tmall Genie will start shipping on July 17. The company announced a US$73 price tag during a one-month trial period, but it’s not clear how much it is selling for officially.


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