Xiaomi’s take on the Amazon Echo smart speaker costs less than $50

Hot on the heels of reports that Facebook is developing its own take on Amazon Echo, China’s Xiaomi has joined the tech company masses by jumping into the increasingly-crowded smart speaker space.

The Mi AI Speaker is Xiaomi’s first take at rivaling the Echo, which has already inspired a product from Alibaba in China and counts offerings from Google and Apple among its competitors.

Building on the voice-controlled speaker that Xiaomi shipped in December, the new device is powered by artificial intelligence, the company said, which has just been added the Xiaomi’s MIUI operating system, a variant of Android. The speaker can be used as a control for Xiaomi products and also smart products from Xiaomi’s one-hundred-plus partners. Xiaomi touted its content that is available for the speaker, which includes music, audio books, kids stories and radio.

In terms of audio itself, the device uses a setup of six microphones for 360 degree sound broadcast.

The price will be 299 RMB, $45, when it goes on sale in August but the usual caveat applies. As is often the case with Xiaomi products, the initial release is confirmed for China but we don’t have word of international availability.

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Early bird users in China can pick up a Mi AI Speaker for almost free — just 1RMB — in a working-beta test that Xiaomi says will improve the AI systems and “help train [it] to be even more intelligent in the early stage.”

The speaker was unveiled at an event in Beijing today where Xiaomi took the wraps of MIUI 9, which includes a bevy of AI-powered features such as a digital assistant and quick app launch capabilities.

The company also launched the Mi5X smartphone, a 5.5-inch device that ships with MIUI9 and features a dual rear camera. The phone is priced from 1499 RMB, or $220.

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