Russian Social Media Platform VKontakte Integrates Marusia Voice Assistant
Russian social media platform VKontakte (VK) has incorporated the Marusia voice assistant into its app.Both VK and Marusia, sometimes known as Marusya, are products of the tech giant Mail.Ru, which claims it is the first time a voice assistant has integrated with a social network, bringing voice commands and other features to its services.
Marusia gives VK app users direct vocal control over the iOS and Android-based social media app. VK is a fairly comprehensive platform, so the voice assistant isn’t limited to looking at a friend’s profile. Users can ask Marusia to play songs and podcasts or make a call, in addition to the more familiar social media options. Marusia’s role with VK adds another domain for the voice assistant, which already has its own mobile app. Users ask Marusia for information, order food, and control smart home devices, along with running a host of third-party voice apps running through the voice assistant. The connection could potentially raise Marusia’s use enormously. VK claims more than 90% of Russians who use the internet take advantage of at least one part of the VK ecosystem every day. Mail.Ru also has nebulous plans for more VK-specific features for Marusia, but those have not been unveiled as of yet.
“Voice assistant integration is a major milestone for the VK ecosystem, as we are making it more feature-rich and accessible for users,” Mail.Ru ecosystem products vice president Anna Artamonova said in a statement. “Thanks to voice technology, it will be easier for people to discover the potential of the ecosystem, and communicating with Marusia will make this experience more personal. As Marusia develops, she’ll offer more and more features.”
The integration with VK is the newest of Mail.Ru’s experiments with the voice assistant. Last year the company pushed into the smart speaker market for the first time, first on its own with the Capsule smart speaker and later in partnership with smartphone maker Prestigio for the Prestigio SmartVoice. The VK move is also likely about standing out in the increasingly competitive Russian voice AI market. Long-time rivals like Yandex’s Alice as well as newer players like Tinkoff Bank’s Oleg and SberBank’s Salute, are all jockeying to come out on top in conversational AI for the country. If the VK integration proves popular, Mail.Ru is likely to step up its investment in the social media’s voice features, which could then inspire a whole new arena for competition in Russia and beyond.