The Xiaomi Mi AI speaker will launch first in China this August for $45. Image: Xiaomi.

On Wednesday, Xiaomi introduced the Mi 5X smartphone and, alongside it, the Mi AI speaker. The smart hub is the Chinese giant’s take on the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and it will share many of the same features for a much lower price when it launches this August in China.

The surprise announcement generated quite a commotion since Xiaomi has made a name for itself as a bringer of top quality products at lower premiums than the competition. Last time, it caused people to flock to mass retailers like Walmart to get their hands on the Mi Box, a $69 Android TV streaming set.

It is unlikely that Xiaomi plans to rival established industry giants like Amazon and Google in the U.S., but in its homeland the target market is vast and it could prompt a parallel race for smart speaker dominance if other players decide they want a piece of the pie.

The Xiaomi Mi AI has many familiar features

As is standard nowadays for most smart speakers of any brand, the Xiaomi Mi AI complies with some pretty basic features that all users expect from this new device category.

The new contender straight out of China brings music streaming capabilities, live radio broadcasting, and the ability to play back audio books and children stories, according to the featured images in the blog post announcement.

The beamforming audio array on the Mi AI speaker captures your voice and fills the room with ease. Image: Xiaomi.

Xiaomi’s speaker has a six beamforming microphone array that picks up crisp 306-degree audio with echo cancellation for better user control. The actual sound output of the device remains a mystery, but it shows speaker holes all around so we can expect a similar omnidirectional setup.

The artificial intelligence powering the Mi AI can also answer questions you make it about the weather, traffic, and the news. It can also control appliances, set alarms and reminders, and take notes on what you need.

Of course, the Xiaomi speaker will count with a mobile app, for now, expected to be brand exclusive, through which you will be able to tune and configure the settings further to your liking.

You can teach the Xiaomi Mi AI new tricks with add-ons and plugins. Image: Xiaomi.

An interesting feature that Xiaomi did reveal was the fact that users of the Mi AI will be able to download “add-ons and plugins” to expand the functionality reach of the device. Most people have interpreted this as a take similar to the Alexa Skills library, but instead of coming preloaded in the AI you’ll have to enable them.

It is certainly an intriguing device, and particularly with a price tag that translates roughly to $45. People in China will have the exclusive benefit of seeing first what the deal with the Mi AI is when it launches this August. No international release date has been announced so far.

Source: Xiaomi