Yandex Voice Assistant Alice is Now a Music Critic
Russian search engine giant Yandex is using its voice assistant Alice to curate and comment on songs on the Yandex Music streaming service. Yandex Music is incorporating Alice into more of its operations as its premium subscriber base mushrooms. The number of Yandex Music premium subscribers has more than tripled in the last 18 months to 3.3 million people.
The new feature turns Alice into something between a commentary track on a movie and the Pop-Up Video show that used to run on VH1. Those listening to Yandex Music’s playlist of the day or one of its stations can ask Alice for what Yandex calls ‘shots.’ The voice assistant will then share information about the song, the people behind it, or how it fits into the larger music scene.
Asking questions and playing trivia games are two of the most popular uses for voice assistants already, so it’s easy to see why this might be something Alice users would like to have. People listening to songs through Amazon or Apple’s music streaming services can ask Alexa or Siri respectively for information about the track or artists performing it. The feature also shares some similarities with the arrangement Spotify made with the music knowledge database Genius, where listeners can pull up information about the song they are listening to. Spotify is also working directly with musical artists to get similar content directly from the source.
Alice All Over
Yandex, the Russian Google, has a hand in a huge range of tech services beyond streaming music. It offers food delivery, a transportation app, and many more permutations from its search engine. Alice has grown into a key part of the company’s strategy since it launched on what Yandex calls the “chit-chat” engine in 2017. Alice has more than 30 million monthly users and that number may go up if Yandex Music continues to attract new subscribers.
Most Alice users connect via smartphone, as the company delivered only 40,000 of the Yandex.Station smart speakers released last May by the end of 2018. That is somewhat counterbalanced by the open platform for third-party app developers for Alice, which encourages more people to explore what the voice assistant can do. The number of Alice users could also skyrocket if the long-term negotiations between Yandex and Huawei lead to the Chinese company incorporating Alice into its smartphones as has been rumored.