Apple gave us Siri, Microsoft gave us Cortana, Amazon gave us Alexa, Google gave us, um, Google, and now Samsung has officially introduced its new AI-powered assistant to the world.
After months of speculation that its new mobile assistant would be called Bixby, Samsung has now confirmed that it will indeed be called Bixby, which the company says is “fundamentally different” to the myriad voice-powered assistants already out there, according to a press release. It says Bixby is different because it will be able to support “almost” every task that the app is capable of through normal means, i.e. through the touchscreen. This does of course make sense, given that it can be confusing knowing which commands are voice-enabled, though the fact that Samsung says Bixby will support “almost” every command suggests it may still cause some confusion.
At any rate, Samsung says that Bixby-enabled apps will be more context aware so that it understands exactly what the user is trying to do, and it will also be able to understand and execute user-actioned voice commands even if a user doesn’t give it the full command form with the words in the right order — it may even “prompt users to provide more information” when required. Samsung calls this “cognitive tolerance.”
We already knew that Samsung is preparing to launch its next flagship phone on March 29, unsurprisingly called the Galaxy S8, and we reported back in January that Bixby would likely have a dedicated button on the side of the device. Samsung has now confirmed that to be the case, as it looks to remove the friction from the process of enlisting the assistant’s help.
“Confusion around activating a voice interface is a barrier we have removed to make it feel easier and more comfortable to give commands,” said InJong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D for Samsung’s software and services division. “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.”
Samsung also says that at the S8 launch a handful of preinstalled apps will be Bixby-enabled, and over time the company will launch a software development kit (SDK) to allow any developer to build Bixby-enabled apps, similar to how its rivals do with their assistants. It’s no surprise that Samsung plans to open up Bixby, as it’s the only real way to achieve scale. But first Samsung wants to iterate the service in-house before it’s deemed ready for other developers.
Given the increasing role that voice-activated assistants are playing in the broader internet of things (IoT) realm, it’s no surprise to learn that Bixby will be landing on Samsung’s other products in the future, including TVs and air conditioners. Maybe even fridges, who knows.
“Since Bixby will be implemented in the cloud, as long as a device has an internet connection and simple circuitry to receive voice inputs, it will be able to connect with Bixby,” added Rhee. “As the Bixby ecosystem grows, we believe Bixby will evolve from a smartphone interface to an interface for your life.”