Yandex’s Machine Intelligence and Research (MIR) Division was announced on the Yandex company blog last week. According to the blog, the MIR division will function as a centralized, cross-functional unit to accelerate innovation and unify our core machine learning technologies. The MIR division will also transfer cutting-edge research from our various research teams into Yandex products and services. Yandex has tapped Misha Bilenko to head the new division, which brings together a mix of teams focusing on AI-centered technologies including:

  • MatrixNet and DaNet – Machine learning has always been at the core of Yandex consumer products and information services. In 2009, Yandex launched MatrixNet, our proprietary machine learning platform. Today, MatrixNet is used in nearly every product and service Yandex offers. One important feature of MatrixNet is its resistance to overfitting, which takes into account a very large number of factors when ranking the relevancy of search results. DaNet is the deep neural network (DNN) framework developed at Yandex that provides state-of-the-art runtime performance for many tasks that rely on deep learning.
  • Computer Vision – People learn to recognize objects at a very young age. Machines, on the other hand, must be trained to recognize objects using vast amounts of labeled and unlabeled data. Yandex’s market-leading image recognition technology uses machine learning to detect similar images in visual search results as well as perform a number of high-end vision tasks, from automotive photo analysis for auto.ru, to predicting weather patterns using satellite imagery.
  • Speech – Yandex’s SpeechKit voice recognition technology uses machine learning to help people better communicate with devices and be more productive on the go. SpeechKit technology powers voice commands for Yandex search and is also used in Yandex’s traffic information app, Yandex.Navigator, offering motorists voice activation control. The SpeechKit SDK enables businesses to easily integrate Yandex’s speech technologies in their productivity tools and virtual assistants.
  • Translation – With more than 90 languages in production, Yandex is one of very few companies in the world that has access to enough data to meet today’s high machine translation standards. Yandex.Translate uses machine learning throughout its stack, including unique technology for translating rare languages that don’t have enough written data to use classical methods, instead relying on linguistic structures from related popular languages to fill in the gaps.

From speech-to-speech translation to virtual assistants that chat with people and use cameras to see, the MIR division offers amazing opportunities for synthesis and cross-pollination within Yandex’s machine learning, computer vision, speech and translation technologies. By bringing team members from these core technologies together, the MIR division will improve Yandex’s machine and natural processing capabilities, enhancing its products and services and ultimately delivering consumers and businesses a better experience.

Under Misha Bilenko’s guidance, the unified division will be able to integrate its top research findings across all of Yandex products and services. Misha joins Yandex after 10 years of experience working at Microsoft, where he led the Machine Learning Algorithms team in the Cloud and Enterprise division, following a career in the Machine Learning Group for Microsoft Research. Misha brings a unique blend of leadership skills, research expertise and machine learning knowledge to Yandex. His leadership will be instrumental as the MIR division expands Yandex’s research efforts to experiment with new projects and achieve more long-term goals building the next generation of intelligent products and services.