Russian search giant Yandex has unveiled its virtual assistant Alice. Like Alexa or Siri, Alice provides users with directions, weather forecasts and news as well as incorporating access to other Yandex offerings like its music service. And, of course, it does all of this in Russian, which Yandex points out isn’t an easy language for AI to tackle. “Speech recognition is especially challenging for the Russian language due to its grammatical and morphological complexities,” Yandex it said in a statement. “According to word error rate measurements, SpeechKit provides world-best accuracy for spoken Russian recognition, enabling Alice to understand speech with a near human-level accuracy.”
And that accuracy applies to Russian slang as well. Yandex says that when a user asks for the weather in Moscow, for example, and then follows that up with “And what about Peter?” Alice knows to give the weather forecast for St. Petersburg.
Yandex isn’t the only regional company to incorporate a voice-activated assistant into its repertoire. Chinese tech company Baidu did the same thing in 2015, demonstrating just how popular and in-demand virtual assistants have become. Alice is now available through the Yandex search app for iOS and Android. A Windows version is currently in beta testing.