In early July, went on sale in the “Yandex. Station” — Russian smart column with a voice assistant. Batch of devices sold out in first day sales and pre-orders are issued up until October. “Ribbon.ru” in a month tested the speaker and tells what it’s like to live with an artificial intelligence in the house.

“Yandex” has introduced a voice assistant Alice in October 2017. It was a full scale Russian response to Apple’s Siri and Alex from Amazon. However, the latter two companies have long acquired a full-fledged device, with an assistant, but the Russian market to bring them and decided not to. Thus, “Yandex” it was necessary just to make a gadget with Alice to defeat all the competitors before their arrival to Russia. The more that Alice created and taught the Russian language and not just doing the translation of standard phrases in English, as is the case with Siri.

In October last year in a conversation with “Tape.ru” of Alice employees evasively said that it is not willing to do for assistant physical shell, and talked about that it is impossible to create a device that would have liked to all users. However, six months later, the company changed its decision.

Included with the station is the power cord and HDMI connection to the TV. Yes, the station cannot transmit information to TV, “wireless”, and to Alice recommended movies or included casters, you must first connect it to the TV.

Let the design of the column and designed by the American Studio, produce it in China, as indicated by the characteristic smell of cheap plastic. For the month of so he has not disappeared completely.

The “Yandex. Station” resembles a neat box with a square base. It is much more than their competitors HomePod or Google Home and weighs nearly three kilograms.

Inside, five speakers (two high frequency active, two passive low-frequency and one low frequency active), and seven microphones (one in center and seven in a circle). Like its closest analogue HomePod from Apple, it only works from the wall outlet. This means that to make full use of will need to extend two wires.

All that is closed with a removable fabric cover, which is available in three colors: black, gray and purple. Some suggest removing the cover to the sound from speakers were better and cleaner, but in this case, the aesthetic component tends to zero, and the dynamics themselves are at risk to be damaged by any careless movement near the column.

Nothing more to connect to the station not: standard 3.5 mm connector (or something else to connect the audio system) is not here, and managed only a voice, because the remote control was also not provided. Maximum — you can connect your smartphone via Bluetooth to broadcast the music.

Column no displays: the only thing that shows on the status column is a color indicator on the top panel around the “whirlings” of the volume. As soon as Alice starts to listen to the interlocutor, the indicator lights up, and during request processing light circle shimmers.

The top panel also has two buttons — one activates the assistant, the other turns off the microphones. And they are not just muted, and completely stops working — it is de-energized. A volume control wheel that is also located on the top panel and framed by the light indicator. However, as in almost all situations with Alice, the volume is easier to adjust the voice command.

The colour of the indicator changes depending on the situation: for example, during configuration of the connection the light will be blue, and during playback the sound from a device connected through Bluetooth, green. If the Wi-Fi signal is lost, the column begins to glow red and in a plaintive voice announces that it cannot connect to the Internet.

When you first turn the station needs to do a quick setup, which is done through the official application of “Yandex”. Column interfaced with a smartphone, looking for Wi-Fi, makes space sounds in the style of Soviet film “the adventures of electronics”, updates the firmware and only after it notifies the owner about the readiness to work.

To test the capabilities of the new device interesting is that the first few days: the complete how-to describes a few commands that can be useful to the owner, and the full list is available on the support site. Their teams device learning is impossible: if you really want to give the column a new skill, you can only send the offer of “Yandex”.

The company said that users very much ask Alice about interesting (and not) the facts: what is the height of some mountain, or how old any actor. Alice in stations quickly answers questions like “Who is Kim Jong UN?”, but you begin to lose, if the question is reformulated a little bit.

For example, Alice different answers to two variations of the question, which for a person of sound maximum is identical to: — Alice, what is the average sleeping cat? — I have no answer to this question. — How much do cats sleep? — From 14 to 22 hours.

After a few days the excitement of the discoverer is lost, and have no desire to catch Alice. Produces the list of teams that need not for entertainment, but for life. For example, any voice assistant is primarily useful as a timer or a weather forecaster.

A definite plus in contrast to their foreign counterparts — understanding of Russian speech and language features. Teams do not have loud and clearly articulate enough to communicate with her as a regular companion in the room: if she doesn’t understand something, then begins to improvise and divert the topic (in half of the cases successfully, in others — is comical).

Station recognizes it, even if at the same time to talk to her and move around the room. However, if the room more than two people who are still trying to talk, the interaction is significantly more complicated. If many, they will definitely want to ask a lot of questions Alice and she, in turn, tries to combine those snatches of phrases that he hears, and gives incomprehensible mess.

In addition to living people, station, as it turned out, responds to what is happening on the TV screen. Bloggers of the characters or series may call it, calling someone by Alice, and, in some cases, just by saying the word police. What happens next is hard to describe: the voice assistant tries to keep the conversation that it is absolutely incomprehensible, and trying to give any relevant answer. Stop it, you, unfortunately, only one way: getting up from the couch and clicking off of Alice.

Many users of the device, pogovorili with Alice, noted that sometimes she allows herself to be curt and even rude. After a month of test had the feeling that she is able to analyze the supply and answer in the same style. If very simple: the assistant will not be rude to those who are speaking to him politely. Sentences containing a Mat, it does not respond at all.

In addition, the station works well as a normal audio system. It syncs to your account “Yandex. Music” of the owner and can do lists of tracks. And it works much better than the Apple Music and Google Play, but it is the merit music service, and not Alice or station. She can choose a quiet track or a playlist for a party, recognizes the queries in the spirit of “play anything” or “play track good rapper” (which is a very complex query).

Along with listening extremely comfortable to mark any tracks: just ask Alice to add a song to your favorites, and it will appear in “Yandex. Music.” With a lot of tracks, you can do the same, asking to add them to the blacklist and never play. In this case, by the way, Alice invariably notices that the track she “didn’t like”.

It is noteworthy that for all the time use column never included the tracks called music from taxi: popular songs heard at every corner. Playback starts only if you specifically ask to include the top songs on the service, or “something popular”. The sound quality, subjective assessments must meet the unassuming listener. Yes, it’s not HomePod and not Sonos, but something better than portable speakers. The main thing — do not twist the volume to maximum: column begins to rattle.

In the case of video communication is not so smooth: the station is able to search movies, TV series, and video only services. With “Yandex. Video” this fact does not cause any difficulties: there is aggregated videos from YouTube, RuTube, and Odnoklassniki and other hostings. With movies and TV shows more difficult: it comes with a trial subscription to ivi “Mediateka”, after which the user is forced to pay for two services at once in order to continue to watch the content legally (an average of 400 rubles per month for ivi and 600 for “MediaTek”). If you have a subscription to some other service, for example, Netflix, something about her can be forgotten.

Clips from “Yandex. Video” loaded significantly slower from the standard YouTube app on SmartTV. In addition, if the attendant long pull requests to be quiet/loud/fast forward/back, then at some point he’s gonna hang

Another disadvantage associated more with habits than with the device itself, — the inability to manage content using the remote. If the assistant can’t find the movie or show from the first time (which, incidentally, rarely happens), it is necessary to repeat the command as long as Alice does not understand. Just enter the name of the movie will not work.

The station has plenty of features that are not so important in everyday life, but can entertain. It will probably suit a family with children or just strange fans to communicate with technology. For example, Alice can play in the city, the Orb of fate, or “find unnecessary”.

Alice is able to guess the songs in the text, and it is this option, for example, attracted the chief editor of “Tapes.ru”. Being a connoisseur of little-known songs from lesser known rap artists, he made Alice everything he knew. In the end he managed to defeat the artificial intelligence. In many cases, she just didn’t know that the text she was trying to feed.

Another skill is reading news from the main page of “Yandex”. This Alice attracts his assistant with a male voice, and that sufficient human, read out the top 5. You are able to choose the news subjects (politics, society, technology), but to force him to read only the headlines and ignore the liner fails.

The Value Of “Yandex. Station” — 9990 rubles. It’s cheaper than the competition, and not on the Russian market. But, on the other hand, if you do not look back at analogs, the device in the first place is a good column, which can announce the weather and to respond to a narrow range of issues. With it’s definitely convenient to live, because in everyday life the voice assistant is rare, but can be useful.

While she can’t lead the human conversation for one simple reason: she’s not human. As soon as wishing to talk with column begins to linger, it turns off. It does not tolerate human dramatic pauses and, by and large, ready to interact with those who clearly and quickly gives commands.

In the liner manufacturer suggests to speak with Alice as a person. And in this lies probably the root of the misunderstandings of the owner and the columns: if you talk to her like a machine, clearly formulate queries, it will respond in the same manner. But to communicate with her as a friend not to come: she, like a foreigner, you will hardly find tricky conversational design.

The station should be perceived primarily as a device to Alice, and in this case, purchasing assistant has good prospects: the developers of “Yandex” are going to continue to develop his creation and to add new functions.

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