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Tencent, Baidu join Amazon's voice assistant network

Tencent, Baidu join Amazon's voice assistant network
You might eventually be able to use your Amazon Echo to send messages on WeChat. (Picture: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

Amazon launched a Voice Interoperability Initiative on Tuesday, promising it will help 30 companies make their voice assistants compatible with different devices. Voice assistant makers Tencent and Baidu are on board, although Alibaba and Xiaomi are notably absent.

The idea behind the initiative is to make it easy to use any voice-operated device like the Amazon Echo and summon voice assistants from other companies. Some of these companies already have smart speakers of their own. Tencent, for example, launched TingTing last year.

Tencent’s voice assistant also has some unique capabilities because of the company’s ecosystem. It lets people send messages through WeChat with their voice, along with accessing other Tencent services. But unlike its widely used software, Tencent has been having trouble selling its hardware.

Smart speakers have been popular in China. In the second quarter of 2019, China bought twice as many smart speakers as the US. During the same period, Baidu surpassed Google to become the world’s second-largest smart speaker vendor, behind only Amazon. However, many users have also said that their smart devices were not as useful as they hoped.

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