China’s Alibaba is among the largest internet e-commerce sites in the world (right up there with Amazon). So it’s not too surprising that today the company announced the Tmall Genie, an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker.
Instead of Amazon’s Alexa, the Tmall Genie features the AliGenie voice assistant. Feature-wise, Alibaba is offering much of the same functionality as the Echo, including smart home control, weather, news, music, and a wide range of other skills. These can all be activated by saying “Tmall Genie” in Mandarin. As the name suggestions, the Tmall Genie can order items from Tmall, Alibaba’s shopping site, through voice commands; it has voiceprint recognition to ensure that only authorized users can place orders.
From a hardware perspective, the Tmall Genie looks similar to the Echo as well. It’s a black cylinder with a downward-facing light ring that illuminates the base of the device when activated.
The Tmall Genie is launching in a limited beta for ¥499 (roughly $73.39). Users can sign up here. Selected customers will be notified by the middle of July to complete their purchases, and the first devices are set to ship on July 17th.