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Russian search giant Yandex built a smart speaker for its AI assistant

Yandex.Station includes an HDMI output to stream videos to your TV.
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|May 29, 2018 12:12 PM

Russia isn't going to sit on the sidelines while American companies like Amazon and Google conquer the smart speaker world. Search giant Yandex has launched the Yandex.Station, billed both as Russia's first smart speaker and the company's first hardware product. The device uses Yandex's in-house voice assistant, Alice, to handle upwards of 4,000 skills like checking traffic, ordering pizza or finding flights. However, its real specialty is video -- it's an unusual bridge between audio-only speakers and smart displays.

The Yandex.Station has an HDMI output that lets you stream videos directly to your TV, whether it's from Yandex's own KinoPoisk or alternatives like Ivi and Amediateka. You'll have to keep your speaker close to your display, but this is more straightforward than buying a Chromecast-style media adapter or a voice-aware TV.

The device also promises better-than-usual sound for the category with a 30W woofer, two 10W drivers and a pair of passive radiators. You can stream music over Bluetooth, so you're not locked in to specific services.

Yandex ships its speaker in the summer for 9,990 rubles (about $160). It's safe to say you likely won't see this speaker outside of Russia, for better or for worse. As with Chinese smart speakers, this is more about cornering a national market where foreign options are either rare or not really tuned to local tastes.

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Russian search giant Yandex built a smart speaker for its AI assistant