When Samsung launches its next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, later this spring, it will also start rolling out the first applications to work with its new intelligent digital assistant, Bixby.
Bixby will be “fundamentally different from other voice agents or assistants in the market,” Injong Rhee, executive vice president and head of research and development for Samsung’s software and services division (pictured above), said in a blog post yesterday.
After last year’s $5 billion-plus loss on the Galaxy Note 7, a smartphone prone to overheating and fires, Samsung could probably use a solid product success. Bixby could provide one way for the company to differentiate its artificial intelligence capabilities from competitors like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.
Rhee noted that Bixby will eventually be added to all of Samsung’s appliances, including TVs, washers, dryers, refrigerators, security cameras and smart-home devices.
Machines that ‘Adapt to Us’
Bixby will provide users with a “deeper experience” than those offered by other digital assistants because it is complete, context aware and cognitively tolerant, according to Rhee.
That means it can handle any task normally enabled by touch commands, work seamlessly across different interaction modes and understand voice commands given in many different ways. Those capabilities will help address the problem of today’s devices becoming increasingly difficult to operate and understand, Rhee said.
“Technology is supposed to make life easier, but as the capabilities of machines such as smartphones, PCs, home appliances and IoT devices become more diverse, the interfaces on these devices are becoming too complicated for users to take advantage of many of these functions conveniently,” he said. “Samsung has a conceptually new philosophy to the problem: instead of humans learning how the machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the abilities of designers), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.” Bixby was developed with that idea in mind, he added.
‘An Interface for Your Life’
In October, Samsung announced that it was acquiring a company called Viv Labs, which created Viv, an AI platform described as “the intelligent interface to everything.” Viv Labs was founded by Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, who with technologist Tom Gruber helped build the original Siri app now used by Apple.
However, Bixby is not based on Viv but rather on Samsung’s own in-house digital assistant, S Voice, according to a report last month in the Wall Street Journal that cited unnamed sources familiar with the new AI development.
“Samsung first introduced S Voice in 2012 with its Galaxy S3 smartphone,” the Journal article noted. “It received lukewarm reviews. Company engineers in recent months have been busy upgrading S Voice for a relaunch on the Galaxy S8, this person said.”
In his post yesterday, Rhee said the Galaxy S8 will feature a “dedicated Bixby button” on the side that will make the AI easy to launch and use. “For example, instead of taking multiple steps to make a call — turning on and unlocking the phone, looking for the phone application, clicking on the contact bar to search for the person that you’re trying to call and pressing the phone icon to start dialing — you will be able to do all these steps with one push of the Bixby button and a simple command,” Rhee said.
The Galaxy S8 will come with a number of pre-installed, Bixby-enabled applications that will be expanded over time. Samsung eventually plans to release a software developer kit to enable the creation of third-party applications and services that use Bixby.
“As the Bixby ecosystem grows, we believe Bixby will evolve from a smartphone interface to an interface for your life,” Rhee said.