Bristling with six built in microphones the column of plastic can pick up spoken orders from a distance of up to 5m, doubling as a hub for music, online purchases and running third party apps.
Unlike rivals such as Amazon’s Echo, Alibaba will focus its fire on its home market with the Genie fluent in Mandarin alone. However, it will face competition from the likes of Baidu and JD.com which have already beaten Alibaba to market – although it will beat Tencent to the punch.
In a similar ploy to its western namesake Alibaba will use the Tmall Genie as a gateway to its own Tmall e-commerce platform by allowing retailers to open their own virtual shopfronts. It is also tackling security concerns head on by employing voiceprint technology to restrict purchases to registered users only.
In the US and Europe, the nascent smart speaker market has been dominated by Amazon’s effort with Google Home also making inroads. In recent months competition has been heating up however with Apple, Samsung and Microsoft readying similar devices for sale.