Innovation

How one device hacked Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant so you can talk to all of them from anywhere

Jinni allows users to access every major AI-powered virtual assistant from one device, on the go.

Want to access Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant from one device without any other hardware? Jinni—pronounced "genie"—helps you do just that by offering a take-along device you can use almost anywhere, even if you don't own an Echo or Google Home.

Jinni is a small, black, square device that can be clipped onto a pocket or bag, or mounted to a wall or car vent. Using its two buttons, users can toggle between the different virtual assistants, play music, listen and respond to messages, and control Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

"You can take it anywhere, and you can access all those virtual systems to ask them anything," said Ethan Schnur, head of marketing for Jinni. This means you can control all of your smart home products via the device, as well as complete tasks like finding a restaurant, getting directions, or calling an Uber.

SEE: Wearable Device Policy (Tech Pro Research)

"It allows you to access all these things without having to get the normal product that people would have to get otherwise," Schnur said. "You don't need to buy an Echo or an Echo Dot to utilize Alexa on Jinni. They are completely independent of the other."

This also lets people use these virtual assistants on the go, instead of in the office or room where the Echo or Google home is set up.

Jinni operates in two modes. The first is Touch, in which a user taps a button and says, "May I speak to [Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant]" to access one of the options. The second mode is Wake, in which the device is always on, and a user can access an assistant just by saying its name (for example, "Alexa"). Battery life lasts up to a week in Touch mode, and about a day in Wake mode, Schnur said.

Users can download the Hello Jinni app from the Play Store or App Store to their smartphone or tablet, and log into their Amazon Prime and other accounts to gain access to the assistants. The device connects to the phone via bluetooth. That means you can also use Jinni to make and answer phone calls, listen to music, and send or listen to texts—essentially like a smartwatch, Schnur said.

As Amazon makes moves to bring Alexa to the office with Alexa for Business and video calling capabilities, "Whatever they're doing would be accessible through Jinni as well," Schnur said. "With Jinni, you already have Alexa in the office. You don't need the Echo everywhere too."

The device could also be helpful for business travelers, as it allows them to continue gaining the productivity benefits of virtual assistants they use at home or in their base office without having to bring the hardware with them, Schnur said.

SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (PDF download) (TechRepublic)

A Kickstarter campaign to fund Jinni will launch on January 3. The product will also be on display at CES 2018 in January. Those interested in investing can purchase a Jinni for $39. Later, the price will likely rise to the $60-$70 range, Schnur said.

You can follow TechRepublic during CES for more news and product coverage.

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Image: Jinni

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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