Alibaba is surging ahead in its work with an AI assistant. The company already has a version of the Google Home called the Tmall Genie; and is now branching out with the AliGenie platform. For a change, it offers a lot more than we’ve seen from American voice assistants; largely thanks to its integration with Alibaba’s suite of technology.
AliGenie is the assistant powering the Tmall Genie. Which does what most smart speakers do. It’s capable of controlling smart devices in the home like the lights, climate control, smart TV, and even drawing the curtains. Unsurprisingly, it can also be asked to play movies and music as well. Like the competition, it also functions as a personal assistant by setting reminders and responding to queries.
That said, it also includes voice print recognition. Similar to what Google recently introduced with the Google Home update. However, the application of voice recognition comes with a more commercial purpose on AliGenie. All thanks to support from AliPay.
This allows the AliGenie to order goods and pay for them when asked. Verifying the purchase requires the user to speak a password sent to their mobile phone; providing a sort of two stage verification. Alibaba demonstrated how it could be used to reload prepaid accounts using nothing more than a conversation. KFC home delivery was also mentioned as feature being implemented.
Unlike its western competitors, Alibaba is open to partnerships for developing AliGenie. The company is opening the AliGenie Skills Store, which provides support for developers looking to create apps for the platform. An app that functions as sort of a secondary caller ID for detecting scammers was demonstrated on stage.
AliGenie is also being shared on the hardware level. The company is reaching out to other manufacturers to get the platform on third party devices. There’s little information on who Alibaba is working with, but it did mention that a partnership with Thomas the Tank engine will result in an AI powered toy in spring 2018. It apparently involves a toy train that’s capable of moving and responding to the child’s commands.
Sadly, the AliGenie platform only understands Mandarin Chinese for now; not to mention that its main features only work in mainland China. However, it shows Alibaba’s own advantage of being e-commerce specialists when developing an AI assistant. If anything, we would love to be able to order fried chicken without leaving the couch as well.