Today at our annual Yet Another Conference (YAC) we announced major expansions to the Yandex intelligent assistant ecosystem that includes our new smart speaker, a new skills platform for our intelligent assistant Alice, and a new bundled subscription service. Combined these developments offer the Russian audience more choice and the most advanced ability to navigate the online and offline world to date.
Last fall we launched our intelligent assistant Alice, providing the Russian market with an assistant equipped with high-quality conversational abilities and advanced understanding of context. We were especially excited to provide users with this unique interactive feature and we were humbled by the overwhelming positive feedback we received. Today Alice engages in tens of millions of interactions every day to millions of daily active users.
In 2016, the Yandex panoramic maps team undertook a major project with Toyota of Russia to create the world’s first ever panoramic climb up Mt. Everest to enable users to experience one of the world’s most challenging climbs and highest peak through a life-like experience. After two attempts at capturing images and a few years of physical and technical work, the team launched the Yandex Everest page, where people can experience the same climb mountaineers made from every existing Everest base camp. The panoramic climb offers viewers an interactive movie-like experience up to the peak with commentary on the history and facts on Everest.
Every day our ridesharing service Yandex.Taxi provides millions of rides to and from work, friends’ and families’ homes, classes, the gym, and many other locations. This past January alone our thousands of drivers provided over 62 million rides to users of the service. While helping facilitate millions of rides, we are also committed to making each and every ride a positive experience for both our drivers and passengers. One of the most important aspects of providing a high-quality user experience is ensuring passenger safety.
Earlier this week, we announced (in Russian) that Yandex Browser strengthened its protection against cryptocurrency mining worldwide for desktop, iOS, and Android. This Yandex Browser update automatically detects and blocks mining scripts that are embedded in websites to maliciously use a website visitor’s computing power to mine cryptocurrency.
Throughout the world, people are celebrating International Women’s Day today to honor the achievements and importance of women globally. Locally we are celebrating with a Russian public holiday, but throughout Yandex this week our team members recognized and appreciated the great work of women by sharing notes, cards, and flowers.
Last week the Yandex.Taxi driverless car team passed another major milestone on our mission to achieve a level 5 self-driving car, which began with the May 2017 prototype launch. The Yandex.Taxi autonomous car safely navigated the streets of Moscow after a recent snowstorm managing interactions with traffic, pedestrians, parked vehicles and other road hazards on snowy and icy streets. The drive, which occurred during light precipitation and -6 C (21 F) temperatures, was an advanced test challenging the vehicle with winter weather conditions on public roads.
Since 2011 Yandex has been running a programming competition, Yandex.Algorithm, to challenge competitive coders and advance the machine learning community. Yandex.Algorithm welcomes coding contestants from around the world to enter up to three tracks of the 2018 competition: algorithm track, optimization track, and ML track.
At Yandex our mission is to help consumers and businesses better navigate the online and offline world. And when it comes to digital advertising this means working to make the Internet a place where users have enjoyable high-quality experiences and businesses can reach their audiences in effective ways.
As the leading search engine in Russia, everyday Yandex provides results to over 250 million user queries. At the end of the year our research team compiles these queries and analyzes them to publish a list of the year’s top search trends. Usually we don’t publish this in English but since we heard the world was wondering what makes the average Russian laugh, cry, and pay attention, we thought we’d translate their research to English this year.
50 million monthly users rely on Yandex services to help them better navigate the online and offline world. We are constantly working to improve our search and other services by listening to our users and responding to their needs. With the input of our users, we discovered an upward trend in health-related search queries, which are the most searched topic on mobile devices today. In response to an increased dependence on online resources for real-time answers relating to health, Yandex recently launched Yandex.Health, a mobile application that allows Russian users to connect to doctors, regardless of location.
Like the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Russia is known for its vast size and wide range of weather. In particular, many people associate Russia with its distinctive harsh winters that last about five months of the year. The coldest stretch of the Russian winter begins in November and extends through March. During these months, temperatures can regularly reach as low as –34°C (–30°F) in Siberia, one of the coldest regions of Russia that also experiences over 1,000 mm of precipitation in some areas.
Over the years Yandex has launched several education initiatives ranging from learning platforms to high school and master’s level courses. 2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of one of our most impactful educational initiatives, the Yandex School of Data Analysis (YSDA), a free Master's-level program in Computer Science and Data Analysis. In Russia, Yandex is privileged to have access to some of the most talented math and science minds in the world but 10 years ago, Yandex co-founders Arkady Volozh and Ilya Segalovich realized there was a real need to foster these talents and offer students a program for advanced data science.
Today we are excited to officially introduce the world to a new AI assistant, Alice. Alice speaks excellent Russian and integrates multiple services in one centralized tool. Built to authentically interact with people as they go about their day, Alice understands users’ natural language requests and provides contextually relevant answers.
Today Yandex.Translate launched a hybrid machine translation system that combines neural and statistical approaches to machine translation to deliver our users an even higher quality translation that utilizes the complementary strengths of both translation models. The new system first translates users’ queries using both a statistical and a neural machine translation model. Next, CatBoost, our gradient boosting library ranks the outputs of each model, ultimately selecting the highest quality translation.
Today, Yandex released a new version of its search platform, incorporating two important elements:
· An upgraded version of a deep neural network based search algorithm called “Korolyov,” named after a town northeast of Moscow that has long served as the center of Russia’s space exploration program.
· Incorporating Yandex.Toloka, a mass-scale crowd-sourced platform for search assessors into Yandex MatrixNet.
Starting this month, Android users in Russia are presented with a choice screen in Chrome Mobile browser allowing them to select their preferred search engine. Previously, Google search was the default search on Chrome on all Android devices; a different search engine could only be selected by accessing the application settings. Now, with the most recent version of Chrome Mobile (v.60), users are prompted to select their default search engine when the Chrome app launches. This is a huge milestone for Russian users and something we have been working towards for a long time.