Tencent is to launch its own smart speaker that offers functionality from the Tencent family such as sending WeChat messages via voice command and—unlike all the other smart speakers on the market, contains a battery and so is fully portable—according to 36Kr (in Chinese). The official launch date is not yet available, but the app is already up on Apple’s App Store.

Tencent has confirmed to TechNode that the speaker is in internal testing but would not share any further detail about the launch date or features.

Image credit: 36Kr

The Tingting (听听, “listen”) speaker is the first AI smart home product released by the Tencent Smart Innovation unit. The photos from 36Kr reveal that design-wise it looks like any other smart speaker. With an internal battery, it is potentially more portable than other smart speakers on the market, but its killer feature is its integration with Tencent’s ecosystem. The operating system for the speakers is as yet unknown though it is reported to be able to send WeChat messages directly.

Tencent has plenty of experience in speech recognition via its Tencent Cloud-powered Xiaowei AI personal assistant, and has even supplied the technology to courts. Last spring the company appointed Yu Dong as head of its AI research division, in part to boost its applications of AI. Yu had spent nearly two decades developing speech recognition at Microsoft.

Image credit: 36Kr

According to 36Kr, the Tingting has six microphones which can identify whether speech is human or recorded and help with noise reduction. The speaker is coming out around six months later than expected. Tencent president Martin Lau (Liu Chiping) said in an interview with Bloomberg that a speaker would be released last August or September.

Alibaba, Xiaomi and Baidu beat Tencent to the market, though they still trail behind US-based companies. Amazon with its Alexa-powered Echo series is the biggest speaker brand in the world

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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