Yandex pre-installs AI features into Android phones

14/10/2016

Russian search engine Yandex has launched a number of AI-powered services as it looks to rival Google in the mobile search market.

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The company launched a new partnership program to work with smartphone handset makers.

The scheme will see Yandex offer its Android launcher and browser, powered by its Yandex Zen artificial intelligence engine, as pre-loaded services, replacing products typically bundled with Google’s Android OS.

Alongside basic functions like browsing the web or your apps, Yandex’s services will feature streams of content that include alerts on articles, news, videos, images, “and other stories matching personal interests in the form of an infinite feed.”

Yandex’s vice-president of international business development, Artem Fokin, said that when it came to AI, MNOs and device manufacturers could either develop their own proprietary service or acquire external developers, but with Google’s Android being the dominant platform and few mobile companies willing to invest at such scale, neither option would satisfy the majority.

The alternative is to partner with businesses that have already developed AI platforms, he said. “This is where Yandex fits in, because we have relevant experience of developing AI over 20 years,” said Fokin.

Early adopters of the program include a mix of smaller handset makers alongside larger ones who will customise the browser and launcher in varying degrees.

The first round of Yandex partners includes Fly, LAVA, Mobile TeleSystems, Multilaser, Posh Mobile, Wileyfox and ZTE, making Yandex products available in Europe, India, Latin America and Africa.

“We took our foundation tech and adapted it to the mobile space, creating a technology called Yandex Zen, which uses natural language processing and image recognition. It understands the meaning of articles and pictures, and it lets us create a personalised feed of related content for the user.”

Zen is built into Yandex’s browser platform and app launcher, and is powered by its machine learning platform, MatrixNet – used at CERN in Switzerland to crunch data from the Large Hadron Collider – which analyses a number of discrete factors to generate increasingly accurate recommendations for the user when exposed to their interests and intent.

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