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“Vystavochnaya” station: thoughts about Yandex’s first own device

“Smart” speakers have released all to whom not laziness, but in Russia it is only for Yandex. But do not think that the company took up gadgets.

Rumors that Yandex will release a smart column have been circulating since 2017 – and technologist Wylsacom, who saw it earlier than the others in the spring of 2018, even unwittingly misinformed a media shirt with the inscription Yandex.iO: everyone thought it was the name of the future column. Officially it was introduced only on May 29: it is called “Yandex.Station”, and Yandex.iO is a platform for voice control of any devices, not just a column.

I will not go into the description of what “Station” is and how it works: “Yandex” itself coped with it well (you can read it on the company’s blog ). In short, this is a home non-transportable column that plays not only music, but also video films, serials, videos from YouTube – and answers questions and executes commands in Russian.

I can not give a full review either: my session with the “Station” at the “Yandex” conference lasted only four minutes. During this time, I managed to find out that it has only three dynamics – two passive, distributing the sound from the woofer (that is, one in fact), and two “tweeters”, that is, high-frequency dynamics directed forward rather than around, like HomePod with seven “tweeters”. Visually, the “Station” does not look like a bonus: a good Chinese column without touch controls, but perfectly speaking in Russian and capable of serving as an additional set-top box – this is not the case with other speakers.

Even the guys from and Valentin Wylsacom Petukhov were not allowed to take the column for testing – it is not ready for it yet. Perhaps soon I will be able to spend more time with her, but for now I recommend the video of Boris Vedensky: from him you can understand what the “Station” is physically and how it works, although this is not a full review.

On sale “Stations” yet: it will appear “in the summer of 2018”, as they say in the company, according to an optimistic forecast by early July. The price is 9900 rubles: it’s less than similar devices from Apple, Amazon, Google and Sonos are in Russia (although they are not officially sold here), but for me it’s still not cheap enough to attract the attention of the mass consumer.

Sell ​​columns are collected mainly via the Internet (in “Yandex.Market”), but “Station” will be exhibited in the offline store “Yandex”: the other day the company is going to open in its Moscow office the sale of souvenirs, where in the future there will be a full demozone their first own device.

At the conference, the YaC column could be viewed in special fenced-off demos. In such conditions, you will not understand how powerful and high-quality sound the “Station”, but it is at least tolerable

While there is no opportunity to make a full review, but after a couple of hours of talking with Yandex employees and fellow journalists there are several thoughts that I want to share.

1. This event for the market

Like Google, Yandex has always been a technology company, not an iron manufacturer. Google was developing services and technologies to be implemented by others, and then began to make gadgets – to show the rest, as it should.

“Station” – the first own gadget “Yandex.” Mail.Ru Group does not have its own gadgets. Yandex now has it. At a minimum, there is an extra opportunity to ponto.

In addition, it turned out that it was Yandex that first announced the “smart” column with sales in Russia. Nothing prevented Apple from starting selling HomePod in Russia before the “Station”, since Siri already speaks Russian normally, but now, apparently, they will not be in time. On Google, which does not officially sell any of its devices in Russia, there is no hope, just like on Amazon.

2. This is an exhibition sample

Nobody knows how many columns Yandex wants to sell at the launch and in the following months. The company officially says that they are very flexible in this regard – “we can heat up, we can reduce” – but there is no feeling that the column will be in great demand. Judging by the hints of the head of Mobile Review Eldar Murtazin, the first ordered party of “Stations” is counted only a few thousand pieces.

Take off – good. It will not take off – the “Station” can still be used to promote “Alice” and other technologies of “Yandex”.

3. “Yandex” demonstrates the possibilities of “Alice”

There is a feeling that the head of the company Arkady Volozh does not strongly believe in the potential of voice assistants – after all, voice commands, like buttons, are just an intermediate interface, while humanity is waiting for the emergence of technologies for direct processing commands from the brain. But judging by the ambitions of the Yandex.iO platform , Yandex is aiming at a market that has not yet been developed into household appliances.

A refrigerator with Alice can make someone smile, but I’m inclined to support Volozha here: soon the interfaces will blur so much that we stop thinking about how and with what voice assistant we need to communicate, and we’ll just do it on the machine. For Yandex, it’s profitable to occupy this market, until someone else rustles it.

“Alice” speaks very well (it is pleasant to listen to) and understands the commands, even if they are not too articulately pronounced by children – she already understands the human voice better than a person does. “Station” is a good tool for demonstrating the capabilities of Yandex voice technologies. Show how a person speaks with “Alice” in the phone, not cool, but in the car (through “Yandex.Auto”) – it is inconvenient.Demonstrate the technology in a fashionable, solid-sounding column, moreover, its own production – cool.

The video from YouTube, open on request “Alice, show video with cats.” The column displays several numbered clips on the screen: you can name the number (and it will start) or flip through the list with “Next” or “Back” (you do not need to repeat “Alice”

4. There is something to demonstrate here

Even if we consider the “Station” as an exhibition, a test sample, it is still a good example. First of all, Yandex runs several things at once: the Yandex.iO chip, which recognizes and processes speech (it is very small and integrated into any iron), its own microphone system capable of catching speech from the other end of the room even with strong noise ( can be built into cars), and even the whole pleiad of their services.

The column can be called “Yandex.Taxi”, learn “Yandeks.Pogoda”, listen to “Yandex.Muzyku”, order pizza through conditional “Yandex.Edu” or buy goods on “Yandex.Market.” “Station” is a living embodiment of the ecosystem of Yandex services, which can be touched. And to make it even easier, Yandex created a special set of Yandex.Plus services with a free trial period of three months – that is, there is nowhere to drop a barrier to access to all these services. And as a control shot – for a couple of months ivi and “Amediateki” for free.

Yes, and the column itself as a tool for listening to music, on impressions and other people’s reviews, not bad. I already see around the opinion that at such a price it is even a profitable investment of money – but, again, until other manufacturers begin to sell their devices and make Yandex competition.

5. “Station” – the first iron “Yandex”, but it is not so fast to write the company in the ranks of manufacturers of gadgets

Although there are “Yandex’s own” designs in the “Station”, the devices themselves are made in the Chinese factory – according to Vedensky, Harman & Kardon. Representatives of “Yandex” told that they trust the manufacturer all the expertise in terms of sound – it is obvious that Yandex has no expertise in the production of audio equipment.

“Station” is the company’s first own device, but it’s absolutely not a sign that “Yandex” is on the way to the manufacturer of gadgets. In the near future, the company plans to release autonomous navigation systems “Yandex.Auto”: their launching was to take place before the announcement of the “Station”, but it did not work out – perhaps because the station sounded more interesting and was decided to show it first. But again, this is not yet a large-scale mass production with a huge demand and regular updates. The “station” is something like a sample of the ground . Get out of it something in demand or not? Wait and see.

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