Alibaba launches new Tmall Genie digital assistant and smart speaker

The smart speaker and digital assistant wars have really begun heating up. With Amazon, Apple and Google already in the midst of it, an unlikely contender has now entered the fray. Known as one of the world’s largest retailers, Alibaba has now detailed its own voice-enabled smart speaker named the Tmall Genie.

Looking to leverage its massive assortment of products and digital content, Alibaba has now branched into the smart speaker market. The company’s new Tmall Genie is equipped with a professional speaker and amplifier array as well as 6 microphones, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Now you won’t find Siri or Alexa inhabiting the Tmall Genie, but rather the company’s own AliGenie voice assistant. In terms of features, it looks like you can expect the same variety of commands available from competitors. That means you’ll have the ability to control your smart home devices and play your favorite tunes all through voice commands, as well as have access to news and weather info. In a similar fashion to Amazon’s assistant Alexa, Tmall Genie also sports a wide array of additional skills.

Compared to the other assistants and speakers on the market, the Tmall Genie is more akin to the Echo-line of devices than the HomePod or Google Home due mainly to its integration with the Chinese E-commerce site. Meaning you’ll have access to Alibaba’s library of over 10 million songs, the ability to order whatever your heart contends and everything else Alibaba offers.

It also has more advanced features like voice-based user identification, so it can authenticate purchases and other commands or queries. Over time, Tmall Genie will also learn from past interactions, helping it improve in its ability to serve as your digital assistant.

The device’s design fits right in with other voice-activated speakers, processing the typical cylindrical outer shell paired with a mesh accents. On the bottom of the Tmall Genie, you’ll find a LED light ring which visually indicates when the assistant has picked up a command, similarly to the Echo.

Price-wise, the Tmall Genie stacks up fairly competitively and comes in at just under $80 (¥499). While the device is currently up for preorder, it is only available  for purchase in China. Even if you were to get your hands on one, the Tmall Genie assistant only speaks and understands Mandarin, so if you speak anything else then you’re kind of out of luck anyway.

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