China’s Alibaba is one of the world's largest internet ecommerce sites, and it just announced its own rival to Amazon Echo.
Called the Tmall Genie, it features the AliGenie voice assistant, which is very similar to Amazon Alexa in that it offers smart home control, weather reports, news reports, music playback, and other "skills" that can be voice activated when you say “Tmall Genie”, followed by a command, in Mandarin. You can even use it to order goods from Tmall, Alibaba’s shopping site.
Another cool feature is that it offers voiceprint recognition at launch, meaning only approved users will be able to place orders. Beyond features, Tmall Genie looks a lot like a cross between the original Amazon Echo and Google Home. It’s a short cylinder that comes in a black or white colour scheme, and it even has a light ring that glows from the the bottom of the device.
Check out Alibaba's promo video below for the speaker. Right now, however, you can only get it in a limited beta for ¥499 (about $74/£56). That's pretty inexpensive when compared to the costs of existing smart speakers - though, obviously, you need to speak Mandarin and use Alibaba's services in order to take advantage of everything Tmall Genie has to offer.
Interested users can sign up here. You will be notified sometime in July if you've been selected to complete your purchase. The device should begin shipping out by 17 July.