Device maker Samsung today said that it has acquired Viv, a startup that was building a virtual assistant based on artificial intelligence. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The move is clearly targeted at improving Samsung’s existing products, presumably most prominently smartphones.

“With Viv, Samsung will be able to unlock and offer new service experiences for its customers, including one that simplifies user interfaces, understands the context of the user and offers the user the most appropriate and convenient suggestions and recommendations,” Samsung said in the statement.

Indeed, Samsung does need to do more to improve automated contextual responses to users’ input through speech recognition, and the acquisition should help a good deal. Viv’s team previously helped create Apple’s Siri virtual assistant.

But even this week Google, the company behind the Android mobile operating system that Samsung phones use as a base, showed new first-party Pixel smartphones featuring a deep native integration of the Google Assistant virtual assistant, which first showed up in the Google Allo messaging app. Essentially the move shows Google outdoing one of its partners. Now Samsung is announcing its response.

The timing is also meaningful; Samsung’s high-end Galaxy Note7 has faced ongoing issues, including a recall.

As for Viv, it never actually launched and has been quiet about the technology it has been incubating since being founded in 2012, two years after Apple’s Siri acquisition. Investors include Horizons Ventures, Iconiq Capital, and Pritker Group Venture Capital.

The Viv team will keep operating separately under its existing leadership, according to the statement.


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