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 Bixby is indeed the name of the assistant, which the company says is “fundamentally different” from the myriad voice-powered assistants already out there, according to a press release. Samsung says Bixby differs from the competition in that it will be able to support “almost” every task the app is capable of through through the touchscreen. This move does make sense, given that it can be confusing to figure out which commands are voice-enabled, though the fact that Samsung says Bixby will support “almost” every command suggests there may still be some confusion.
At any rate, Samsung says Bixby-enabled apps will be more context aware so that they understand exactly what the user is trying to do and will also be able to understand and execute a user-actioned voice command even if the speaker doesn’t use the full command form with the words in the right order. In fact, Bixby may even “prompt users to provide more information” when required. Samsung calls this “cognitive tolerance.”
We already knew that Samsung is preparing for a March 29 launch of its next flagship phone, which will unsurprisingly be 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 is seeks to make enlisting the assistant’s help as frictionless as possible.
“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 what its rivals do with their assistants. It’s no surprise that Samsung plans to open Bixby up to developers, as it’s the only real way to achieve scale. But 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 also 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.”