Yandex Blog

Yandex Launches Ilya Segalovich Foundation to Support Education in Maths and IT

Today we are launching the Ilya Segalovich Foundation. This new Yandex project bearing the name of the company’s co-founder Ilya Segalovich will support organizations and public initiatives engaged in the development of affordable high-quality education in mathematics and IT. The Foundation will also include all non-profit educational projects of Yandex.

"Today, on September 13, the birthday of Ilya Segalovich, we are announcing the Foundation that will carry his name. Ilya was passionate about what he did, genuinely loved people, and helped those who were in need. For many, he was a mentor and a role model, a teacher in the best sense of the word. Acting in the spirit of Ilya, the Foundation will focus on creating educational solutions that will improve the life of individuals, as well as society overall. Strong education gives everyone an opportunity to realize their potential and feel confident in the future," comments Elena Bunina, CEO of Yandex in Russia.

The key objectives of the Ilya Segalovich Foundation are to:

● improve access to modern education in IT and mathematics;

● develop education through open data, methods and technologies;

● support teachers and professional community;

● support projects that foster public interest in knowledge, science and culture.

In addition to developing its own projects, the Ilya Segalovich Foundation will support other organizations and public initiatives through grants. The total amount of grants available to potential recipients in 2022 is 250 million rubles ($3.5 million). The applicants will be evaluated by the Foundation's panel of experts, which includes education specialists, well-known public figures, and Yandex representatives. The members of the panel, as well as the grant programs, will be announced at the Yandex conference on education, YaC/e, on November 10.

Yandex has been developing educational projects for 15 years. Our educational effort has benefitted about 6 million people: schoolchildren, students, beginner specialists and experienced teachers. As of today, almost 2 million school children used Yandex.Textbook for their studies, more than 1,000 students have graduated from the Yandex School of Data Analysis, with over 6,500 children graduating from the Yandex Academy Lyceum, while more than 1,500 students enroll in Yandex programs at universities every year.


The Ilya Segalovich Award in Computer Science has been honoring outstanding academic achievement and research since 2019, with dozens of postgraduate students and academicians having received more than 30 million rubles ($400,000) in grants. The Ilya Segalovich Scholarship is a stipend supporting talented Computer Science students at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

In 2019, Yandex launched an initiative for the development of education through technology. Within its framework, the company pledged to invest 5 billion rubles ($70 million) until the end of 2023 to expand its free educational projects in Russia. This work will now continue within the Ilya Segalovich Foundation and will be reinforced with further investment.

Ilya Segalovich (1964-2013) is a co-founder and CTO of Yandex; the author of the first version of the Yandex search engine and creator of the word ‘Yandex’; co-organizer and supporter of the Maria's Children Art Rehabilitation Center for orphans and children with special needs.

Yandex Rolls Out New Search Update 

Yandex has updated its search engine to integrate a family of generative neural networks, plus more than 2,100 other improvements. 

As a result, Yandex users gain new features and upgrades including video timestamp responses to search queries, more detailed quick answers to a greater number of queries, improved object recognition in real time, and the ability to view a summary of customer feedback.   

Most of the improvements are based on deep neural networks trained on massive volumes of data. The group of generative algorithms introduced in this update is called Yet another Language Model (YaML), they are trained on terabytes of data, and use up to 13 billion parameters to understand natural language and generate responses in Russian. YaLM is used to produce up to 17% of the interactive replies for Yandex’s intelligent voice assistant Alice. It also generates captions for rich search results and determines the ranking of quick answers on Yandex Search.

Some notable improvements from the search engine update include:

Video Timestamp Results 

Now, in response to a search query such as how to cook a tuna steak, Yandex users are offered a video that starts exactly from the moment this specific demonstration happens, skipping any irrelevant information. Currently available on mobile devices and coming to desktop in the near future, this feature works best for ‘how to’ queries and video manuals that teach viewers, for example, how to wash a dog or learn to skate. 

Quick Answers

Yandex Search now responds with quick answers to more user queries across more topics, and also offers more details related to each query. In addition to the information that explains how to train a horse in Minecraft, for instance, or shows the hidden features in iOS, Yandex Search users can now view responses to related queries made by other users. For example, when looking for information about how to start your own business, the Yandex Search users will be offered additional information such as legal requirements for starting a business or how much it may cost. Internet users currently view more than 130 million unique quick answers on Yandex Search each month.

Smart Camera

The Smart Camera feature in the Yandex App and Yandex Browser provides mobile users with instant information about objects in real life, including the price of commercially available items and where to buy them. This feature can also be used for instant translation between 45 languages, as well as document scanning and editing. The update also improved Smart Camera object recognition and information retrieval – it now identifies objects in real life and serves up information about them five times better.    

Customer Feedback Summary 

To help people make a decision about choosing a cafe, restaurant, hotel, shop, or other businesses or organizations – and save them the time it takes to read through hundreds of customer reviews – Yandex now provides an automatically generated customer satisfaction rating scale right in the search results. In response to a query about a restaurant, the user will now instantly see an overview of how other visitors rated their food or service.

Automated Caller ID and Blocking 

Yandex App users on iOS and Android devices can now enable automatic caller ID to identify incoming phone calls and filter unwanted callers. Automated blocking or muting for unsolicited or fraudulent calls is scheduled for release next month.

The new Yandex update streamlines users’ search experience, making it easier for them to navigate the online and offline world. 

Third Ilya Segalovich Award Honors New Winners

The third annual Ilya Segalovich Award ceremony presented each of the six winners with one million rubles to recognize their outstanding contributions to applied and theoretical research in computer science and related fields. 

Yandex established the honor, named after its co-founder Ilya Segalovich, in 2019. Open to young researchers and academics in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the Award recognizes new talent and outstanding work in research supervision in the key areas of Yandex interest and has already supported more than two dozen recipients. This year’s event took place in Moscow at the end of last month and honored four young researchers and two academics. They were recognized alongside the 2020 winners, who were unable to receive their awards in person due to Covid restrictions last year. Two of this year’s winners are repeat honorees. 

The topics of research honored by the Ilya Segalovich award this year include recurrent neural networks and recurrent learning, online machine learning, generative models and aggregating algorithms, optimization methods, agent-based systems and reinforcement learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence. 

In addition to the monetary prize, the Award covers travelling expenses and fees to attend any conference of the winner’s choice. Each winner is also provided with a credit for Yandex’s cloud service Yandex DataSphere and its data labeling platform Toloka.
 

The Ilya Segalovich Award was created to not only reward young scientists for their achievements, but also to provide them with the opportunity to continue their academic research.

Yandex supports education and research in a number of ways, including through its Yandex School of Data Analysis, collaborations with universities, and its Educational Initiative. Launched in 2019, the Educational Initiative trains IT specialists, enables people to participate in the digital economy, equips school teachers with technology skills and helps them engage with their students. The ultimate goal of the Initiative is to support science, foster a knowledge society, and improve education through technology.

Yandex Browser Gives Users Control Over Third-Party Cookies

Yandex has rolled out a feature that automatically blocks unauthorized third-party cookies and lets users manage their third-party cookies through a simple dashboard built into the Yandex Browser. The new feature enhances user privacy and grants users control over who they share their data with, while still allowing advertisers to reach their potential customer

Yandex Browser, first launched in 2012, is now available in 14 languages on all digital platforms and has a monthly audience of 35 million users on desktop and 37 million mobile users worldwide. The YTP feature is available on desktop as well as on mobile for Android devices.

The technology is called Your Tracking Protection (YTP) and it only allows third-party cookies from websites that are deemed trusted. These sites alone can show relevant ads or  use features provided by other parties, such as a sharing button or chat functionality. Third-party cookies from websites that users have never visited before are blocked by default. Previously visited websites are considered trusted though the user is able to change this setting at any time. Information about YTP can be viewed directly in the browser.  

Yandex Browser users will also be able to see which third-party trackers have been blocked or allowed automatically on any given website and choose to block or unblock any of them. The new feature is easy to use and gives users a full and transparent view of third-party cookies running on each website. 

Third-party trackers running on each website can be viewed by clicking on a counter on the right of the browser’s address bar.

Yandex Browser users can view which trackers have been blocked automatically and choose to unblock or block any of them temporarily or permanently.

At Yandex, we believe in creating solutions that benefit content creators and advertisers without compromising user privacy.  Web users should be able to see who can access their information and manage how it is used. Unauthorized sharing of data should be eliminated, but a blanket ban on all third-party cookies is a measure that may affect the whole ecosystem including users, publishers, websites and advertisers. Total blocking of third-party cookies will make it harder for advertisers  to target their desired audiences, while web users will be exposed to irrelevant ads. They  may also be unable to access multiple websites with the same login or share web content to social networks. The YTP technology strikes a balance between complete blocking of all third-party cookies, providing users with a safe and personal internet experience, while allowing advertisers to engage with potential customers. 

In addition to launching the YTP technology in Yandex Browser, we are also providing clients on our advertising platform with targeting opportunities that do not rely on third-party data, such as context-based targeting. 

We will continue to develop technologies and advertising solutions to ensure that advertisers and web users can interact safely and efficiently.  


 

Yandex Updates Logo to Reflect Current Ecosystem of Online and Offline Services

Yandex has revealed an updated logo, both in Russian and English. The refreshed logo reflects our transformation from a search provider to an ecosystem of products and services for everyday life. 

The previous version was created in 2008 and designed primarily for viewing with a desktop computer when Yandex was a search engine and internet portal offering its services exclusively online. Back then, no one could have predicted that an internet company could deliver groceries or develop self-driving cars.

Now that mobile phones have overtaken desktop devices and the line between online and offline worlds has blurred, Yandex makes products and services for both. For instance, in addition to Yandex apps, Yandex.Eats couriers now deliver orders from restaurants, Yandex Go taxis carry passengers and Yandex.Lavka scooter drivers bring people their groceries in under 15 minutes. 

The new logo reflects this modern reality. It was designed to look natural on any platform and in any environment, digital or physical, from apps in your phone to a delivery box at your door to a driverless car on your street.

The logo is updated but maintains a connection with the previous version to represent that all of Yandex’s products and services originate from the same core technology – search algorithms.

The new Yandex logo is part of a broader rebranding plan to update the graphic design of all Yandex products and services, both online and offline.

Music of the Spheres: Yandex Music uses algorithms to turn cosmic bodies into art

Yandex Music has released The Sound of Stars, a playlist of audio compositions created to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first human flight into space.

The playlist’s ten tracks were created using physical properties of stars, pulsars and galaxies converted by algorithms into music. The audio journey across the universe begins from the Sun and ends 53.5 million light-years away from the Earth – in the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. Each track in the playlist is dedicated to a specific astronomical object and uses its physical characteristics. The playlist also features commentaries by scientists and short looped videos representing the ‘heroes’ of each track.

“We know from watching sci-fi films that sounds of space are either menacing and disturbing, or it’s ambient abstract music. But the truth is, no one knows what space really sounds like. Or rather, what it would sound like if sound could travel through space. The music that is normally associated with space is just someone's fantasy. So, we thought, why not try and apply technology to our own fantasy? What we got in the end is the new sound of space, which can take our users on a cosmic journey of their own,” says Andrey Gevak, head of Yandex Music.

We used sonification methods to turn specific astrophysical parameters, such as brightness or motion of a celestial body, into sound properties, such as frequency or amplitude. Then numeric values of each parameter were converted into corresponding musical notes. A professional musician then selected harmonic movements, instruments and sound effects to finally create the ten celestial tracks in The Sounds of Stars playlist.

The melody of ‘Sun’, for example, is based on the frequency of solar flares over the past 60 years. ‘Eclipsing Star’ is a waltz, where two melodies revolve around each other, just like the two parts of the double star Beta Lyra. ‘Galaxy’ is the actual photo of the galaxy NGC 2442 in the Flying Fish constellation converted into data and fed into a spectral acoustic synthesizer. The new Yandex Music collection also has a bonus track with musicians, programmers, astronomers, and other experts discussing the connection between technology and creativity.

The Sound of Stars was created by the Yandex Music team together with professional astrophysicists. Astronomical data for the tracks was provided by the RadioAstron Project, the Astro Space Center at the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), the Space Weather Forecasting Center (SWPC), and NASA.

The Sound of Stars isn’t the first experimental creation that uses Yandex technologies. Yandex Music released its parametric debut album, Nonhuman Music, in 2019. It included compositions created by human musicians together with a neural network. In 2016, Yandex made the album Neural Defense inspired by the work of Yegor Letov with lyrics also written by a neural network.

Listen to The Sound of Stars now on Yandex Music.

Yet another Conversation 2020: Yandex Talks About What Matters and How It All Works

This year, Yet another Conference (YaC), our annual corporate conference on technology and innovation, has become “Yet another Conversation” — a virtual event that combines the presentation of our latest products and technologies with an open and candid conversation about our culture and values. The heads of key Yandex services talk about the thought process behind their products, discuss their plans and aspirations, and show what they have accomplished over the past year. They also discuss the challenges they have faced and how they managed to overcome them.

Some of the topics that we address include: recent developments in the driverless world, opportunities and challenges in delivery logistics created by the pandemic, and the latest capabilities of Yandex's core search technologies. 

Tigran Khudaverdyan, the Deputy CEO of Yandex, sat down with the well-known journalist and blogger Alexey Pivovarov to weave these stories together and to reflect on how Yandex has fared during the pandemic.

One of the highlights of YaC 2020 is YATI (Yet Another Transformer with Improvements) — a neural network based on the Transformer architecture, which allows us to evaluate semantic relationships between user queries and the content of web documents. Transformer architecture has several key advantages — it works not only with short texts, such as queries or article titles, but also with longreads. YATI is able to identify the most significant sections of a text and take that into account while delivering search results. YATI is also able to “understand” the relevant context, such as the sequence of words and how words affect each other. Overall, YATI is several million times more complex than our previous generation neural network and is one of the biggest updates to our core search technology in the last ten years.

At YaC 2020 we also presented a new addition to our family of smart speakers with the built-in intelligent voice assistant “Alice”. The new Yandex Station Max is the most powerful smart speaker produced by Yandex to date. It features advanced Dolby Audio technology for a perfect audio experience, 4K HDR for streaming films in crystal clear quality, and an interactive LED screen to visually augment Alice's replies.

Yandex Station Max has five speakers producing a total of 65W of power. Multiroom technology allows this device to be connected to other Yandex smart speakers, creating a continuous soundscape in your home.

Other new Yandex services highlighted at YaC 2020 include one-click delivery of Yandex Market purchases via Yandex Go, new features in the Yandex.Fuel app, an updated Yandex Search app with a personalized feed and new opportunities for our e-commerce partners in Yandex search. 

Watch YaC 2020 on YouTube.

Registration is Now Open for Yandex Cup – Yandex’s International Championship in Competitive Programming

Yandex’s third annual competitive programming event, Yandex Cup, will take place from October 19th to November 7th this year. This event will include tracks in front-end development, back-end development, mobile development, analytics, machine learning, as well as an olympiad programming track, formerly known as Yandex.Algorithm

Registration is open until October 25th on the Yandex Cup website. Sign up today! 

This year’s event is aimed at professional and advanced programmers over the age of 18 living in Russia or a CIS country. These eligible participants will be competing for prizes totaling 3.3 million rubles ($45,000). The competition’s Algorithm track is open to international participants over 18 years old. 

The tasks for Yandex Cup are unconventional, as they always are. They have been created by leading Yandex experts who develop core services such as search, self-driving vehicles, and ecommerce systems. Yandex’s programming competition is designed to challenge even the most advanced programmers, however, some of the tasks will be designed to allow beginners to also participate. 

The trial round, which will give participants a chance to familiarize themselves with the competition and its rating system, will start on September 21st and will last until October 18th. The main competition will begin with qualification rounds on October 19th and will last until October 25th, with finals scheduled for November 7th. Contestants can choose to participate in multiple tracks in the trial and qualification rounds, but the finals will be limited to participating in only one track. An online awards ceremony will take place on November 21st.

Yandex Cup was launched two years ago as an annual international programming competition. It had 9,129 participants in its first year and 12,500 in its second. Yandex has a strong tradition supporting competitive programming, including starting Yandex.Algorithm in 2011, as well as software development contests Yandex.Blitz and Yandex Programming Championship, all of which are now part of Yandex Cup. 

Join Yandex Cup 2020 to win cash prizes and find your place among some of the best programmers on this planet! 

Turkish Digital Music Hackathon Helps Spur Innovation in Yandex Music

At the end of July, Yandex Music sponsored the Online Music Hackathon. The event was hosted by one of Turkey’s most innovative universities, Özyeğin University, and saw more than 50 current and former students develop creative predictions for the future direction of how we will consume and find music online. Experienced Yandex team leads, project managers and products owners both mentored the students through the hackathon and judged the highly innovative prototypes they produced.   

The Online Music Hackathon focused on social music discovery and interaction, brought together engineering, marketing, business, social science, architecture, and design students and graduates spend 72 hours developing their ideas into practical solutions. With the help of Yandex mentors, each of the 13 participating teams delivered an exciting product concept ready for further testing and validation in real life. 

This hackathon allowed me to understand how broad the music industry actually is, and also made me think it would be enjoyable to shape my design career through music. – Kumsal Kurt, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Department of Industrial Design, Özyeğin University

Özyeğin University, a young and vibrant research university with a strong focus on engineering and modern technology, was a natural partner for Yandex. In addition to meeting many talented and passionate individuals and creating boundary-pushing products, Yandex gained valuable local perspectives on the future of online music discovery and found new opportunities for further innovation and collaboration with a community of impressive young professionals. 

The winning team demonstrated their knowledge and talent by developing a prototype for how music streaming can be combined with users' location to provide new ways to discover music and interact with others. The two runners-up created a novel way of sharing music with friends, and innovatively described a social listening experience that could be shared with others in real time. Two additional projects worthy of special mention included a solution for discovering and supporting local independent musicians and a game-like app for sharing and finding music based on location. 

“The Online Music Hackathon by Yandex was an amazing opportunity for our students, especially during these difficult times. Bringing our alumni into the competition brought additional perspectives to the event. We are proud that Özyeğin University was selected to host this hackathon that connected our students and alumni with Yandex experts. It was a great learning experience for all participants. We look forward to further partnership opportunities with Yandex,” says Melda Çakıcı Alpaydın, Director of Sectoral Education & Professional Development at Özyeğin University.

“Open innovation and collaborative product prototyping with external communities are required to create relevant digital services. This is especially important when operating in global markets. Thanks to Özyeğin University, we have established a great R&D collaboration between Yandex and the extremely talented students and graduates in Turkey. This will help us innovate our existing products and create new meaningful experiences for music lovers across different cultures,” says Aleksas Drozdovskis, Chief Strategy Officer and Global Product R&D, Yandex Media Services.

Yandex Music has always been committed to staying ahead of the curve. Launched 10 years ago, Russia's most popular audio streaming service is now available in 14 countries and makes personalized recommendations of its 65 million music tracks and 100,000 podcast episodes to its 20 million users per month.

The Ilya Segalovich Award Celebrates Outstanding Talent in Computer Science

The annual Ilya Segalovich Award ceremony took place for the second time, this time – online. The award, established by Yandex last year in honor of the legacy of one of its co-founders Ilya Segalovich, celebrates special achievement in computer science and related fields, and is awarded to young researchers and academics working in Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus. 

Last year's award was shared among 13 winners, including nine graduate and postgraduate students and four academics, who pushed the boundaries in their respective fields. Their scope of study ranged from detecting plant disease using computer vision and video object tracking, to detecting emotional subtleties in text and creating automated translation algorithms for rare languages.  

This year the total sum of 15 million rubles ($210,000) was awarded to three academics and nine young researchers. Their work focused on problems in 3D computer vision and video generation, stochastic optimization, deep learning, reinforcement learning, positive-unlabeled learning, generative adversarial networks, Bayesian deep learning, representation learning, multilinear algebra and exploratory search. 

“Yandex’s products and technologies have always been driven by science. Applied research, however, is not the only center of our attention. We are deeply interested in theoretical research, as well. This is what drives the entire IT industry and can lead to impressive future results,” says Mikhail Bilenko, head of Machine Learning Research at Yandex. “We established the Ilya Segalovich Award to support graduates and postgraduates working in machine learning and other promising areas of computer science. Talented students often have to leave their studies for the sake of an early career. We would love to give them an opportunity to continue their fundamental research.”

We have always relied on world-class research to develop our products and technologies. A number of leading scientists have been a part of the Yandex team or collaborated with Yandex in various capacities at different points in time. The Ilya Segalovich Award Committee includes top Yandex executives as well as leading scientists, such as Ilya Muchnik, Professor at Rutgers University and Academic Director of the Yandex School of Data Analysis, Stanislav Smirnov, a Fields Medal laureate and Professor at the University of Geneva, and Alexei Efros, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley. 

The Ilya Segalovich Award, along with the eponymous scholarship for computer science at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, is part of Yandex's commitment to support fundamental research and professional development, including through its Educational Initiative, a multimillion dollar investment program for educational projects and services. 

With over 30 educational projects and services currently offered by Yandex, the company has a strong tradition supporting educational initiatives and partnering with the leading universities in Russia and other countries. We have been nurturing exceptional talent in mathematics, data science and related fields through our School of Data Analysis in Moscow and other locations in Russia since 2007, and through its branch, Y-Data, in Tel Aviv and Beer-Sheva. Last year we launched Russia’s first online English-language master’s program in data science in partnership with Coursera, based on the Computer Science Faculty at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. 

We will continue to support people who are passionate about what they do, especially when they do it for the benefit of others.