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Alibaba’s AI-powered speaker hits the shelves

Alibaba’s first consumer targeted artificial intelligence speaker Tmall Genie X1 was unveiled on August 8th, the same day as the “88 Member Day” (and WeChat’s Cashless day) where Alibaba invited its dedicated 10,000 shoppers to a music concert hall in Shanghai. Pictures of Tmall Genie X1 were shown on the giant screen and the MC started a conversation with the artificial intelligence speaker.

“I can be your personal trainer when you are working out and your assistant at a gathering. If you bought a present, I can also track the package for you. There are many things that I can do,”  Tmall Genie X1 tells the MC on the stage with a friendly voice.

Last month, Alibaba’s Artificial Intelligence Lab released its first beta version and on August 8th, Alibaba officially put its artificial intelligence on the shelves. Priced at 499 RMB, Genie X1 is now available on Tmall, with the sales figure reaching over 12,000 units in two days with a 4.8-star rating.

The release of Tmall Genie is Alibaba’s attempt to allow its users to purchase items on Alibaba’s retail platforms including Taobao and Tmall directly with their voice. When users place an order, Tmall Genie can recommend personalized shopping items on their platforms.

Tmall Genie X1 is the very first voice-controlled smart device produced by Alibaba AI Labs.

Alibaba’s AI push

Alibaba AI Labs, established in 2016, is leading the development of Alibaba’s consumer AI products and is very confident about the growth potential of China’s voice-assistant market.

“As mobile phone usage continues to grow, the next entry point for the internet may well be voice. We want to invest in speech cognition and deep learning technologies so as to keep enriching the features of Tmall Genie,” Lijuan Chen, Head of Alibaba AI Labs told TechNode.

The brain of Genie X1 is called AliGenie, which Alibaba says is the first generation of human-computer interaction system for the Chinese language.

AliGenie runs on the cloud and understands user commands in Mandarin. It has functions such as smart home devices control, voice shopping, bill-payment, food delivery and music streaming.

 

Tmall Genie X1 (Image Credit: Alibaba)

Currently, Alibaba’s voice assistant comes with AliGenie built in but it can also charge your phone and even help you find it when you misplace it. For food delivery, users can tell Genie X1, “make the same takeaway order as I did last time” or directly say which dishes they want to have. According to Alibaba, more services such as flight and movie ticket booking as well as hotel room reservation are in the pipeline.

In the future, Alibaba AI Labs plans to partner with more third-party service providers such as IoT and content service providers. They mentioned a possible partnership with home device manufacturers and brands to develop a smart home environment where smart devices can be connected with and activated by AliGenie.

TechNode asked Lijuan Chen, Head of Alibaba A.I. Labs how their Genie is better than other competitors like Tencent’s AI assistant Dingdang and Baidu acquired Alexa-like service Raven Tech. Lijuan did not address the competition, but rather gave the advantage of their product:

“We use cutting-edge deep learning technologies in Tmall Genie, which enable the device to provide personalized recommendations throughout our retail platforms that suit the best interest of consumers. AliGenie is an open platform, so that it can be connected with various hardware and software service providers and keep fine-tuning to meet the growing demands of consumers.”

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