Tencent, the China Internet company, is gearing up to roll out a voice-activated digital assistant for WeChat, its messaging app.
Bloomberg, citing comments WeChat executive Zhou Jie made during a company conference, reported the digital assistant will be able to conduct tasks including playing music and getting a ride. The digital assistant is being called Xiaowei and will work with Tencent services, including its music streaming one. Bloomberg noted there isn’t a timeline as to when Xiaowei will launch.
Although the market for voice-activated digital assistants is booming in the U.S. as consumers use Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri for all sorts of tasks, in China the market is still in its infancy. Alexa and Siri aren’t widely used in China, with many consumers viewing voice activation as more of a novelty than something they would use on a daily basis. Local competitors in China have stepped up to embed voice-activated assistants in appliances and devices, noted Bloomberg.
The move on the part of Tencent is also aimed at diversifying the company as its gaming business is facing a slowdown — and it’s facing more competition. In addition to revealing Xiaowei, Tencent said it will look to speed up the monetization of advertising on Mini Programs, which is a platform for apps that work with WeChat. It plans to test new ad formats and add more apps, reported Bloomberg, citing Tencent executive Du Jiahui, who also presented at the company conference.