This dynamic has put both camps in an awkward relationship as each side covets something valuable in the other.

One of China’s rising AI stars is Rokid, a four-year-old startup last valued at US$450 million.

Virtually all of China’s tech titans, such as Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, JD, and Xiaomi, are churning out voice-controlled gadgets.

While the major players focus on the mass market, Rokid is zeroing in on higher-end speakers that cost as much as US$770.

And although the bigwigs have built software to go with their own speakers, they outsource certain stages of the work to startups for strategic reasons.

“It basically wants to put speakers inside homes so people can shop via its speakers.”

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