Petr Malyukov is the CEO and Co-Founder of YOUS, a communication tool with a built-in AI translator that enables everyone to understand and speak a foreign language during chats, audio and video calls. AI recognizes speech, translates it, and speaks in a synthesized voice in the interlocutor's language.
You were born and raised in Russia, not somewhere that is known for being at the forefront of AI. How did you initially get introduced to computer science?
I was born and grew up in Astrakhan, a small provincial city in Russia. My father introduced me to computer technology when I was 5-6 years old. He assembled my first personal computer, so I began my journey into IT. At that time, no one was talking about AI, but I was attracted to computer technology, and I enjoyed diving into it. My favorite subject at school was computer science.
Could you share the genesis story behind YOUS?
We got the idea to create YOUS in November 2019 when I faced the problem of language barriers in online communication. I needed to hold an online business meeting with international partners, and my lack of foreign language skills made me search for possible solutions. At that time, there was only one tool for this – interpreter services. To organize such a meeting took me several days to find someone, to pay for several hours of interpreter work for the meeting itself lasting only 20-30 minutes, and to handle the confidentiality issues, they are always there when third parties are involved.
That was when I thought, we live in the 21st century, so what prevents me from trying to create such an online solution that would be convenient, accessible, and safe for hundreds of millions of people all over the planet? I was taken by the idea and started implementing it immediately.
What are some of the speech recognition challenges that are faced when building an app with users that speak 16 languages with different accents?
That's a very good question! That's right, speech recognition plays an important role in online communication, as it will determine the understanding of people. If AI does not recognize the speech of the speaker, it may not deliver accurate information to the interlocutor. We try to consider such problems and correct them by explaining to users that we recommend conducting online meetings in a quiet environment, where there are no extraneous voices and noise. In parallel, we are working to ensure that YOUS can eliminate unnecessary noise and extraneous voices.
Could you discuss some of the natural language understanding challenges as well?
The natural language of the interlocutor is recognized well enough for the meeting participants to understand each other.
Does the app perform better at some languages than others?
We gather focus groups and test different language groups to understand which languages work best and in which pairing, we also create spontaneous scenarios for participants in these groups whose goal is to understand each other, as YOUS' mission is to bring people together.
What are some of the other machine learning technologies that are used?
YOUS uses voice recognition, translation, and synthesis technologies. We are working on technology that automatically detects the user's gender and language so that we can speak different languages during a meeting without having to adjust the translation settings manually. We also plan to integrate AI technology that will be able to clone the user's voice and use a synthesized voice to speak different languages, taking into account the characteristics of the user's voice.
In your view how will this app transform international social communication?
YOUS app creates the future of online communication without language borders. We strive to unite people, help them overcome these barriers, and the key task of YOUS is to help people understand each other, regardless of their language affiliation.
What’s your vision for the future for YOUS?
YOUS is a future unicorn with millions of users.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about YOUS?
YOUS is already available on iOS/Android smartphones and works in any browser via the web platform. With YOUS you can make audio/video calls, make phone calls and communicate in a messenger with a built-in AI-based translator. Join in!
Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit YOUS.