Russia launches its own version of Amazon Alexa with ‘near-human levels’ of speech recognition

Yandex claims that ‘Alice’ is first conversational intelligent assistant.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 11:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 11:19am

By David Reid

The Russian technology company Yandex has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant called “Alice”.

Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, says that Alice is the first conversational online assistant, possessing “near-human levels of speech.”

“We wanted Alice to interact with users more like a human, so that users don’t need to adapt their requests,” said 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,” Filippov added.

Yandex claimed in a blog post Tuesday that the digital assistant’s advanced level of context allows users to carry out a more relaxed style of conversation.

“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,” the post read.

Alice’s voice recognition and synthesis rely on SpeechKit, Yandex’s proprietary speech recognition software.

Alice will lift its information from Yandex’s suite of services that includes taxis, shopping, payments, music, news, weather, maps and education.

“Russia’s Google”

Launched in 1997, Yandex is often described as the Russian equivalent to Google but now prefers to describe itself as a tech company built around artificial intelligence.

According to an article in The Economist in September, Yandex accounts for just over half of the search market and 61 per cent of online advertising in Russia.

The firm focuses heavily on the Russian market and has signed recent deals with taxi-hailing app Uber and Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

President Putin has criticised Yandex in the past but reportedly paid a visit in September to help mark the firm’s 20th anniversary.

Read the original article at CNBC