Update: Yandex has confirmed to TechCrunch thatÂ Facebook has blocked Wonder from accessing its data.
Until now Yandex, widely known as Russiaâs equivalent of Google, has stuck to Russian-speaking markets and Turkey, but today itâs launching its first US product â an experimental, voice controlled iOS app called Wonder.
Wonder, which has just gone live on the App Store, is a social search app using data from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram, plusÂ the Last.fm and iTunes APIs to answer English language questions like âWhat jazz songs do my friends like?, âWhat sushi restaurants do my friends go to in New York?,â and âWhere do my friends party?â
Whatâs interesting, is that this is exactly how a mobile implementation of Facebookâs recently-launched Graph Search, which is currently only compatible with desktop browsers, might work. Yandex Wonder canât answer all of the same questions as Graph Search, but the parallels are clear.
When you speak a question to the app (you can use the keyboard if you prefer), Nuanceâs Speech Recognition technology converts it to text, which is then run through Yandexâs own Natural Language Understanding Unit to work out what question is being asked.
Currently the app can answer a limited number of types of question, about places, music and news. Yandex says that the types of questions, and the subjects covered, will be expanded in response to user feedback.
The app, the existence of which wasÂ uncoveredÂ by TechCrunch a few weeks ago, has been developed by Yandex Labs in Palo Alto, although this shouldnât be seen as the start of a major assault on the US market. Itâs an experiment in social, semantic search technology and the US has been targeted because itâs a largeÂ country with a lot of online social sharing of activities and tastes.
If you live in an English-speaking country (or indeed any other country) other than the US, youâre out of luck. Wonder is US-only at the moment, although it may be expanded to cover other countries in the future.
Header image credit: Digital Vision / Thinkstock
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