Bixby – The new Samsung AI companion

Bixby   The new Samsung AI companion

Digital assistants are a thing. Think Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, or (for a few windows die-hards) Cortana. Samsung also had a such a feature, the universally terrible S Voice. It seems Samsung is having another bite of that cherry. One of the announcements on Wednesdays Samsung Galaxy event was of Bixby. This is Samsungs new Artificial Intelligence service.

Kate Beaumont, the director of commercial strategy, product and planning at Samsung, told WIRED that Samsung has apparently

“..a conceptually new philosophy to target this problem (of diverse technologies): instead of humans learning how a machine interacts with the world, it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.”

What does that mean? It is contextually aware and designed to help you use your device. This is different to Google Assistant, (which incidentally is pre-installed on the device anyway, as it Android 7.0) or the others in that it helps you use your device, rather than search the internet for general queries. For example, after taking a photo you can tell Bixby to send it to a contact or dictate a message. This is different to the other assistants currently out there.

Samsung is putting a lot of stock in this. Last year it acquired Viv, a voice assistant run by former members of the team who made Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. However, Bixby is a completely in-house venture.

The question I have is “Why?”

It is well-known that Android vendors such as Samsung and LG want to keep a degree of independence from Google. They don’t want to be beholden to Mountain View’s whims and create their own brand loyalties. Hence the duplicate browser/chrome music/Play Music bloatware apps that we see on those devices. Many find these apps a poor comparison to the Google ones (anybody used LG Smart View? Yeah, thought not). Others are taking a “less is more” approach, trying not to duplicate efforts such as HTC and Motorola. I can see the arguments on both sides for those approaches. The nerd in me likes the simplicity of not having duplicate apps, but sometimes the OEM apps/skins add a lot. Touchwiz had split screen apps about 2 years before Android incorporated it natively.

BUT… AI is hard work. Anyone using Siri knows it’s still infuriating, even after a number of years. Google Assistant too, even with its massive data sources, still needs time. They have different business models to Samsungs, however. Apple will always make money on its hardware, and Google makes money on search, so investing in that is sensible. But what’s Samsung’s take on AI? What’s their business model? This is a serious venture, and in an era of disappearing home buttons, they have added a physical button for Bixby. That is a commitment.

Or is it just a case of competition for competitions’ sake? What do you all think?