Russian internet search giant Yandex sought to steal a march on Google and Amazon in its home market, unveiling a new smart speaker and developer platform for its virtual assistant, Alice.
The $160 smart speaker, called Yandex.Station, is the company’s first venture into the hardware market. As with Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo, Yandex said its speaker will let users issue voice commands to Alice to manage “routine tasks” in their home and search for music, videos and TV shows.
Yandex said Station owners will also get a free one-year subscription to its new Amazon Prime-like bundled subscription service, Yandex.Plus. The subscription, which typically runs around $2.75 per month, includes access to Yandex.Music, discounts on taxi rides, free shipping on select orders in Yandex’s online marketplace, access to movies and TV on KinoPoisk and 10GB of free storage.
Teaching Alice new tricks
Thanks to brand collaborations, Yandex noted Alice can already help users order pizza, groceries and flowers from partners, check their mobile phone account balance, buy flight tickets, conduct a job search, study new languages and find a workout routine.
But the company said its new Yandex.Dialogues developer platform will help further expand those capabilities, by opening up the Alice ecosystem to third party developers. Using the platform, the company said developers can, for instance, choose a trigger word or phrase that users can say to Alice to activate a live chat session, game, order or other service.
The launches come as part of Yandex’s play to expand into new segments as Google continues to win share in its core search business.
Google, as well as Amazon and Apple, are aiming to push their smart speakers and assistants to a wider global audience. But Yandex noted its smart speaker is the first to debut in Russia, giving it a chance to corner the market before its rivals have a chance to launch.