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Putin talks to Russian Alisa voice assistant, inspects unmanned vehicle created by Yandex

September 21, 18:33 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Yandex specialists showed the president one of their latest products, a voice assistant named Alisa, which can be compared to Apple’s Siri

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© Alexei Druzhinin/Russian presidential press service/TASS

MOSCOW, September 21. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the office of the Russian technology company Yandex to see an exposition dedicated to the Yandex services and meet with the company’s personnel. An unmanned vehicle created by Yandex was also demonstrated to the president.

First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Sergei Kiriyenko, Presidential Aides Igor Shchegolev and Andrei Belousov, Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov and Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh accompanied Putin on the visit.

Yandex specialists showed the president one of their latest products, a voice assistant named Alisa, which can be compared to Apple’s Siri. At the moment, Alisa is only capable of talking about the weather and city routes. Just like Siri, Alisa is also programmed to make jokes. Questions to her can be made verbally or typed in a chat form.

"If I ask her something, will she answer me?" the president asked Volozh and immediately addressed Alisa: "Do they treat you well here?" "Okay, I will consider that," Alisa responded. "How do you find it here?" asked Putin. The voice assistant responded by saying that she watches "photos of kitties using the Yandex services, there is nothing better than kitties, I hope that you are doing well, too." Putin expressed satisfaction with the performance but said that "she declined to answer when asked if she was treated well."

The Alisa voice assistant will be launched on October 10. The program’s developers told the president that it was the first computer program of the kind, because unlike other such assistants, Alisa was capable of simply chatting with users. While other voice assistants detect key words in the phrases that users say, Alisa analyzes huge amounts of information before giving an answer. "We don’t even know what she will say. She can give different answers to the same question," Yandex Chief Technology Officer Mikhail Parakhin told the president.

While talking to reporters later, the program developers said that the system posed no threat for human beings, since "it has intellect but no will of its own." However, from Alisa’s answers users may get the impression that the system is angry, hurt or cheered up.

The president had a chance to see the system answer questions using popular words and phrases, such as "Okay", "fine" and so on. Experts explained that the system was constantly analyzing what people said in response to questions and memorized these expressions.

Alisa’s creators added that initially they uploaded the works of classic Russian literature but as a result, the system started to "give very depressing answers." So they decided to connect Alisa to Twitter, which made the voice assistant talk like a teenager. "Alisa has been learning for a year, she is improving all the time," the developers said.

Putin asked which navigation systems Alisa used when she received location queries. He was told that all the available systems were in use, including GPS and GLONASS.

Other projects by Yandex

During his visit to Yandex’s office, Putin was provided information about other projects by Yandex, including the Yandex.Health, Yandex.Market, Yandex.Weather and Yandex.Taxi services, as well as about some new services that are planned to be introduced in the future.

At the end of the visit, an unmanned vehicle created by Yandex was shown to Putin. Before the president arrived, reporters got agitated seeing a man sitting in the driver's seat, but when Putin appeared, there was no one inside the vehicle. The president watched the Toyota-Prius hybrid car move through the courtyard and thanked Yandex for the demonstration.

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