Just ahead of the release of the Galaxy S8, Samsung has lifted a corner of the curtain and released some details and features of its new AI voice assistant.
First the name: Bixby.
At the end of last year there was much speculation that there would be an all new voice interface on the S8, and that it would come in male and female versions. (Kestra being the female version. Both names with ties to Star Trek, because, Galaxy.) These rumors came from the news that Samsung had acquired Viv Labs, an AI shop founded by the guys who invented Siri. The info on the potential names came from trademark applications filed by Samsung back then, but there has been no recent news of Ms. Kestra.
Bixby is expected to replace S-Voice, leave Google Assistant feeling neglected, and compete more directly with Siri, Cortana, and Alexa.
In Samsung’s words, it (he?) is fundamentally different from the others in three key ways: Completeness, Context Awareness, and Cognitive Tolerance. Distilled down, this means that if an app is Bixby-enabled, the voice assistant will be able to support almost every task that the applications is capable of performing, will be able to do so while being aware of the current state and context of the application (i.e. what you are currently doing with the app), and will be able to interpret a wider range of voice commands in a less rigid format. A little less junior high grammar teacher; a little more ‘I feel you, tell me more…’
The new Galaxy S8 will also have a dedicated Bixby button on the side of the device that is meant to reduce the number of steps required to get to what you are looking for. We won’t know how that works in practice until it hits the streets and the hands of the consumers, which should be happening on April 21st.
Samsung is, no doubt, hoping this product launch goes smoother than – and helps fade the memory of – the Note 7 debacle of last year. They are hailing Bixby as the “heart of our [Samsung’s] software and services evolution” and have said that after smartphones the AI platform will be integrated into other appliances as well. Although there has been no mention of exact dates, Samsung has confirmed that soon it will be possible to control televisions and air-conditioners through Bixby. Did Bixby just say Netflix and chill?
Samsung just announced that Bixby, the virtual assistant that is a hotly anticipated feature of the new Galaxy S8 smartphone, will not be ready for prime-time when the devices hit the shelves in April. It is reported that during internal testing Bixby’s English voice recognition was not up to par with its performance while working with the Korean language, and that the voice-activated components of it could possibly be delayed until the end of May.