Today, Xiaomi introduced the Mi 5X, a mid-range smartphone with a 5.5-inch display, Snapdragon 625 processor, and dual 12-megapixel cameras. Alongside that announcement, the company also introduced a new smart speaker, joining a growing number of similar devices from other manufacturers.
Xiaomi described its new Mi AI Speaker as an "all rounded [sic] helper for your day to day activities", and - oddly - as "a baby for nurture into your perfect companion". It added:
- Play music
- Ask any kind of question such as weather, traffic, translation…
- Control home appliance
- Set alarms
- Take notes
by simply asking it with one sentence!
In addition to music streaming, the speaker can also be used to play live radio, as well as reading audio books, including children's stories.
Xiaomi said that the speaker offers "excellent sound quality", along with a six-microphone omnidirectional array to pick up voice commands and enquiries from anywhere in the room. You'll also find physical controls at the top of the device.
And as its name suggests, Xiaomi says that the speaker's voice platform is powered by artificial intelligence, although the full benefits of this AI integration remain vague. Xiaomi did say that the capabilities of the speaker can be expanded through third-party add-ons and plug-ins, much like the Skills that can be added to Amazon's Alexa assistant.
The Mi AI Speaker will have to compete in the smart speaker market with the likes of the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and soon, Apple's new Homepod. Samsung is reportedly working on its own competing product, codenamed 'Vega', while manufacturers such as Harman Kardon and HP are also preparing to launch speakers using Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant.
But the Xiaomi speaker will have a major advantage over these rivals, thanks to its ultra-low price. As with its other devices, Xiaomi has priced the Mi AI Speaker aggressively, at just 299 RMB (roughly $45 USD). The first 1,000 people in China who sign up to a beta program - to test the device, and help 'train' its voice interaction features - will be able to get it for just 1 RMB, or around $0.15.