Alibaba has launched the latest iteration of its AI-powered speaker with visual capabilities that allow the device to read and understand written text.

The Chinese ecommerce giant’s newest version of its smart speaker, named AliGenie 2.0, is able to perform tasks ranging from reading a bedtime story to recognising different medications.

The smart speaker, which currently only recognises written and spoken Mandarin, was developed in the retailer’s in-house innovation hub, A.I. Labs, and can primarily be used to buy goods from its marketplace platform TMall.

However, visual recognition capabilities added to the device have been designed to help China’s young and more elderly citizens.

Alibaba has teamed up with Chinese publishers to enable AliGenie 2.0 to recognise the cover of 117 different children’s books and read them out loud. To activate this functionality, users need to scan the book cover with their smartphone while in the smart speaker’s corresponding mobile app.

The Chinese retailer has also enabled its smart speaker to visually discern more than 40,000 different kinds of medicine packaging in a bid to help the quarter of the Chinese population that are forecast to be aged over 60 by 2030.

This is the latest effort from Alibaba to use its platform to assist elderly citizens following the launch of an updated version of its ecommerce app specifically designed for ageing shoppers last month.