Yandex, the largest technology company in Russia, has unveiled the first smart speaker for the local market. Powered by the company’s Russian-speaking AI assistant Alice, the speaker is priced at roughly US$160.
Named Yandex.Station, the smart speaker lets users play music, set alarms, read the news and get the weather with their voice. It’s also kids-friendly, as it can sing songs and read fairy tales for them.
Voice assistant Alice has over 4,000 skills to let users hear workout tips, find flights, check traffic conditions, find restaurants, order pizzas, etc. Furthermore, these skills can incorporate both chatbots and live human customer service operators, says the company.
Alice was first introduced in October 2017 for mobile phones, and will soon be available in Yandex’s connected car platform, the company says.
“Alice is built with advanced conversational skills and an understanding of context, giving it the ability both chat with users and to manage a range of tasks,” Yandex says in a statement.
Yandex.Station provides a whole range of multimedia entertainment experience. It not only plays music, but also streams films, videos and television through its HDMI port to any connected display. Currently, Yandex.Station has access to Yandex’s video streaming service KinoPoisk, as well as a wide range of other content including premium local video service providers ivi and Amediateka.
Yandex says the speaker comes with a proprietary array of seven microphones, allowing it to pick up users’ voice even in a noisy environment, before responding “almost instantly – within a second.” There is also a button to disconnect microphones so that Alice will not listen or respond.
In terms of sound quality, the speaker gives out 50 watts, which is just right for a small party, Yandex says. Inside there is a woofer and two radiators for deep, volumetric bass and two tweeters for high frequencies.
Although it did not indicate the exact date, Yandex said the speaker will be available in the coming summer. It will be bundled with a free one-year subscription to Yandex.Plus, which normally costs US$2.75 per month.
The Yandex.Plus offers unlimited music streaming, ad-free movies, discounts for taxi and car-sharing rides, as well as other benefits from the Yandex ecosystem.
“Not only will our users benefit more from their favorite products, but they will also discover new ways our services can help them. And in the future, Yandex.Plus will expand to include even more services,” says Andrey Gevak, head of Yandex.Plus.
Yandex builds intelligent products and services powered by machine learning. Founded in 1997, the company provides locally relevant search and information services. It has also developed on-demand transportation services, navigation products, and other mobile applications for consumers across the globe.