In this exclusive interview with Samer Mohamad, Yasmina Regional Director for MENA at Yango, Adgully delves into the remarkable unveiling of Yasmina, Yango's most human-like AI assistant, at GITEX 2023. This cutting-edge technology promises to redefine the AI landscape, offering users an experience like never before. Mohamad sheds light on the intent and innovation behind Yasmina, highlighting the seamless fusion of AI intelligence with cultural nuances. He says that Yango's mission is to not just provide information but enhance the human experience in a profound way. Read more to understand how Yasmina combines cutting-edge technology with a deep understanding of Middle Eastern culture. Excerpts:
Can you tell us more about Yango's most human-like AI assistant unveiled at GITEX 2023 and what sets it apart from other AI assistants in the market?
What makes Yasmina unique is the intent and the technology behind Yasmina. Our mission at Yango was to merge AI intelligence with cultural awareness.
Yasmina's technological foundation consists of natural language understanding, speech recognition, and speech synthesis. To build the speech recognition component of Yasmina, we worked with hundreds of people from Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, and more. This wide variety of voices, spanning various ages and genders, empowered Yasmina to recognize diverse speech nuances and dialects.
Our intent is to continuously evolve Yasmina, so it becomes a part of the social and cultural environment and contributes to improving the quality of life for people locally.
Yasmina helps people make informed decisions, use precious resources like time more wisely and run their homes, offices, and lives better. Lending a helping hand to parents, Yasmina is capable of recognizing if the user is a child and activates age-appropriate content and language for children. In short, Yasmina helps people enjoy a higher quality of life — exactly what we wanted to achieve at Yango.
How do you see the Middle East market responding to this new AI assistant, particularly in terms of its "Khaleeji personality"?
The Middle East has one of the oldest heritages in the world and the governments and communities have successfully retained their unique identities, cultures and values while making remarkable progress in business and development. The people are very tech-savvy, well aware of the potential of technology and at the same time rooted in their culture and traditions.
Yango has invested considerably in understanding the preferences and needs of the people of this region, and we have used all our research and people’s engagement to build the unique personality of Yasmina.
The feedback that we received from early adopters was all very positive; people simply loved Yasmina and found the assistant to be funny and human-like. The name for the voice assistant was also carefully selected via popular vote.
Yasmina is still learning, so we would like to invite people from the UAE to sign up for public beta testing at yasmina.yango.com. We would love to learn more from them about their interaction with Yasmina and make the assistant even more local.
Given your role as Yasmina Regional Director for MENA at Yango, what are the specific challenges and opportunities you anticipate when introducing this AI assistant in the Middle East?
Our biggest and most significant challenge from the stage of conceptualizing has been to understand how we can add value to the rich and diverse society of the Middle East with our product while staying true to the mission of merging AI intelligence with cultural awareness.
We have invested significantly in understanding the countries, rich heritage, and aspirations of the people and using these insights to build our unique offering - the most human-like AI assistant.
Another opportunity for us was to go GLOCAL – think global and work local.
We involved a large number of regional content professionals who brought local understanding and awareness to us. They perfected thousands of dialogues, which were then used to fine-tune the assistant's model and train Yasmina to speak fluently and naturally.
Could you elaborate on how this AI assistant's "intellectual smartness" and "cultural awareness" will enhance user interactions and experiences?
What sets Yasmina apart from other assistants is the ability to maintain engaging, fun, and consistent dialogues that feel like you are talking to a real person. Yasmina’s ability to engage in a human-like conversation is based on a proprietary large language model that was thoroughly fine-tuned with the help of hundreds of content professionals, who edited and perfected Yasmina’s dialogues. Yasmina recognizes if the user is male or female, understands the major Arabic dialects, speaks Khaleeji fluently, and will soon be able to both speak and understand English.
On a more practical level, Yasmina works as a smart home center: you can ask Yasmina to adjust the room temperature, turn on the vacuum, or dim the lights. More than just an app on your phone, Yasmina can be built into other apps and smart home devices, including smart speakers.
In your view, how does this AI assistant change the perception of AI from being a tool for providing information to becoming a valuable addition to our human experience?
Yasmina is built as a technology enabler weaving Artificial Intelligence into the lives of people to enhance the quality of their life. For us, Artificial Intelligence is a tool that enriches the human experience in our daily lives, homes, offices, and social and cultural interactions. AI will be much closer to the people, for example, transforming homes into smart homes that can “think” of the likes and preferences of the homeowner; smart assistants helping professionals to manage their busy lives and entertain and educate their kids; and tools to enhance efficiency and convenience.
As a licensed Project Management Professional (PMP), how do you plan to manage and oversee the expansion and deployment of this AI assistant across the MENA region? What strategies are you implementing to build relationships between clients and stakeholders in the MENA region, especially in the context of this new AI assistant?
Yango is all about Bridging Innovations and Enriching Communities Globally.Our mission is to bring global innovations to local communities, fostering connections and enhancing everyday living experiences. As the Yasmina Regional Director for MENA, I carry the legacy of Yango and our people-first approach in my work.
Our strategic decision was to launch Yasmina at GITEX 2023 which attracts MENA stakeholders, and build a stronger presence in the UAE, the most remarkable hub of innovation and technology today.
Yango's educational journey is an interesting blend of technical knowledge and business dynamics. How do these experiences contribute to your approach to the regional launch of the human-like AI assistant ?
Yango aspires to provide local communities with choice when it comes to deciding which products to use — global or local ones.
We will follow our regular route: offer consumers to beta-test our product and then choose the best version of Yasmina together. Add great sound quality and CMF to the mix and you have an advanced AI product that’s also your best buddy at home.
We are continuously refining Yasmina and we want to enhance the assistant’s fluency, creativity, and versatility.
Can you provide insights into user feedback and initial reactions to the launch of this AI assistant at GITEX 2023, and how Yango plans to iterate and improve based on this feedback?
As for any business that creates a new product, our biggest challenge (which is also our biggest opportunity) is to build value for the people of the UAE and the Middle East. Understanding user experiences and feedback is not only vital, but central to our design approach; hence we have opened the first public beta testing of Yasmina for our community across the region at yasmina.yango.com
Initial reactions from GITEX visitors were very inspiring. We saw users enjoy their interactions with Yasmina and bring back friends to test the new assistant.
But our team is working hard on the beta testing, and we really look forward to shaping the assistant into its best version while revealing it to thousands of early adopters in the region.