Source: Alibaba official Twitter handle

Alibaba has announced that it will invest a massive $1.4 billion (10 billion yuan) in the development of an AI(Artificial Intelligence) and IoT(Internet of Things) system, designed specifically for Tmall Genie, China’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa.

China isn’t your average run of the mill country when it comes to technology. The country is very strict about what apps it allows, what companies can operate in its borders and honestly, what it wants its citizens to say. Amazon Alexa does not really fit well into the whole setting, so China came up with its own answer, just like it does for every other thing, in the form of Alibaba’s Tmall Genie smart speaker. Alibaba was happy to take up the job, as it was already making efforts to expand its scope out of online retail and cloud computing. And thus, the first edition of the speaker came out in 2017.

The company says that the investment will be used to add more content to the speaker, as well as develop proprietary technology.

IoT has empowered companies to create entire ecosystems of technology, controlled by simple commands. The technology has made “smart homes” a reality and so far, we have only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of. Amazon Alexa uses IoT to connect the speaker to other devices in the home, where a user can then ask the virtual assistant to “turn on the lights” or “turn off the air conditioner”. It is yet to see what Tmall Genie’s result will be after the new $1.4 billion investment, but you can expect great things.

The company has already come out with variants with displays, with the latest model (launched in 2019) housing a 10 inch screen, priced at 549 yuan ($77.28) .