Chinese search engine giant Baidu is partnering with household appliance manufacturer Midea to develop new artificial intelligence-powered smart products. Baidu is reportedly planning to incorporate its AI-enabled voice assistant and smart speaker technology into more of Midea's products, creating smart appliances for high-tech Chinese homes.
A number of Midea's appliances are already equipped with Baidu's voice command system, including products from 15 categories such as heaters, air conditioners, and rice cookers. The next step would be to utilize Baidu's Xiadu AI-assistant into additional smart home appliances to expand the system's connectivity capabilities.
In a joint press release published on Monday, both companies stated that new product categories such as microwaves, lights, and refrigerators will soon feature Baidu's latest smart software version. The new products will be marked with Xiaodu's voice control logo to distinguish them from older models.
The goal of the strengthened collaboration will be to create a fully integrated smart home ecosystem, where all devices will be able to "talk to each other." This will allow users to fully control all of their appliances using multiple devices and apps. Devices will also be able to "learn" their user's behavior and adjust their functionalities accordingly.
Similar to Google, Baidu is taking advantage of its massive search engine network to empower its own AI-based virtual assistant. The company has so far been successful in penetrating China's rapidly growing smart speaker market, selling more than $235 million worth of products during the first quarter of this year. Baidu is facing still competitions from both Alibaba and Xiaomi in the segment, with the three companies occupying a combined 94 percent of the Chinese smart speaker market.
Globally, Baidu and its Chinese counterparts still have a lot of catching up to do to come close to the market shares held by their US-based rival. According to data published by Statista, Baidu currently holds a 10.6 percent share in the global smart speaker market, followed by Alibaba with 9.8 percent and Xiaomi with 8.4 percent. The current market leaders globally are Amazon with 28 percent and Google with 25 percent.
To increase its market share, Baidu has formed partnerships with different manufacturers to expand the use of its Xiandu virtual assistant. So far, Baidu's smart speaker system supports more than 110 million devices, including appliances and products made by Haier and Chinese TV giant Skyworth. With its newly formed partnership with Midea, the number of supported devices is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.