As the quality and resolution of the screens in our homes and pockets reaches ever higher levels, the comparatively lower quality of photos and videos made decades ago becomes more obvious. Here at Yandex, the Computer Vision team within our Machine Intelligence and Research Division has developed a neural-network based super-resolution technology, DeepHD, to help bring these media classics into the digital age. DeepHD enhances the quality of both photos and videos and with its application to Yandex images and content hosted on our video and TV streaming services, it is the first technology of its kind in production.
During the month of September, the global tech community recognizes three important celebrations relating to Yandex: Programmers’ Day, Online Learning Day, and National Coding Week. Here in the Yandex community, we are always appreciative of the work of our thousands of programmers and learners of all ages in our educational programs. For these occasions, we wanted to extend a special thank you to our community of professionals, instructors, and students who are all helping grow the data science field and working to shape the future of tech in our lives.
The Yandex self-driving team first began working on our driverless technology in 2016, combining our expertise in machine learning, navigation, mapping tools, and cloud technologies. In May of 2017, we introduced our prototype and since then have rapidly advanced from testing on closed tracks to driving on the busy streets of Moscow and our most recent fully autonomous ride-hailing launch.
Today in a press release, Yandex announced that it has advanced Yandex.Cloud to provide companies with low-cost and flexible IT solutions that include scalable virtual infrastructure with multiple management options, automated services for the labour-intensive management tasks of popular databases systems, and AI-based Yandex services. Yandex.Cloud also offers flexible pricing to suit different companies’ diverse needs and is deployed across multiple local data centers, enabling companies to store and use databases containing personal data in Russia as required by law.
Today we are thrilled to announce that Yandex.Taxi’s self-driving car is now offering a ride-hailing service to passengers in the university city of Innopolis, Russia. As the first service to offer autonomous ride-hailing in Europe, we are not only excited to help users safely and efficiently navigate to destinations but also to help the public adopt driverless technology and the future of transportation.
Earlier this year Yandex expanded its transportation services and efforts to improve urban living by launching its first car sharing service, Yandex.Drive, becoming one of the largest services in Moscow and surpassing over 2 million rides within the first six months of operation. Yandex.Drive, which offers drivers on-demand access to a fleet of vehicles through a mobile application, has since added a business class option and yesterday announced a refueling service for its fleet.
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.