Russia's Yandex Launches "Near-Human" AI Assistant

Russia's Yandex Launches "Near-Human" AI Assistant

Russian technology giant Yandex has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant called ‘Alice’ that possesses “near-human levels of speech.”

The company said in a press release Tuesday that Alice can help users efficiently accomplish tasks such as finding information online, recommending places to eat, providing weather forecasts, and supplying directions.

Yandex is a Russian multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products. It is Russia’s biggest technology company and operates the country’s largest search engine with about 65% market share in that country

The global virtual assistant market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 11.6% during the period 2017-2021, according to a new research report. It says the “latest trend gaining momentum in the market is the emergence of new virtual assistants in the market. Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and Alexa have become increasingly popular across the world as they have introduced the concept of talking to, instead of through a computer, phone, and home appliances.”

Unlike its competitors, the Yandex AI isn’t limited to predefined scenarios. It has a distinct personality with a sense of humor, and an ability to understand incomplete phrases and questions.

"We wanted Alice to interact with users more like a human, so that users don't need to adapt their requests," says Denis Filippov, head of Speech Technologies at Yandex.

"In developing Alice, we leveraged our speech technologies, which currently provide the world's most accurate Russian language recognition.  Based on word error rate (WER) measurements, Alice demonstrates near-human levels of speech recognition accuracy."

They elaborated further in a blog post on the company website:

“Using web-scale datasets and deep neural networks, we trained Alice to listen, understand, and speak to users using natural language.  As a result, it provides an authentic and human-like personal assistant experience.  For instance, when a user asks Alice, ‘What’s the weather in Moscow?’ and then follows with a question in slang asking, ‘And what about Peter?’ Alice understands the intent and provides the weather forecast for St. Petersburg.”

Alice's voice recognition and synthesis relies on SpeechKit, Yandex's proprietary speech recognition toolkit.

“SpeechKit’s text-to-speech (TTS) technologies utilize multiple machine learning methods, such as neural networks and gradient boosting, to synthesize responses that sound natural and authentic.

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