Tencent, in an attempt to extend the use of its WeChat app beyond smartphones, is introducing a Siri-like AI Voice Assistant to help its billion-plus users with simple tasks such as playing music and hailing a ride.
The assistant, dubbed Xiaowei, will link to a plethora of Tencent’s own services including QQ Music. It will also connect to lite-apps run by third parties like Meituan Dianping that provide on-demand services from food delivery to ride-hailing, said WeChat executive Zhou Jie. The service offers voice, facial and image recognition, and also a software development kit (SDK) for hardware developers. "Xiaowei can also interact with various smart devices to control the adjustment of lighting, air conditioning, and TV,” the company claims.
Voice-activated digital assistants remain a novelty in China despite the existence of services from other local technology giants like Baidu, Alibaba, Huawei and more. This is mainly because Amazon and Google’s personal assistants are non-existent in China. Tencent may be a late-joiner to the game, but their latest move is expected to bring them a competitive edge over the likes of aforementioned services.
By integrating AI-powered voice assistant within WeChat, the messaging platform is likely to drive the social platform's user base and will also help improve the company's position in the smart home market in China. It’s not clear when the service will be rolled out.