Samsung’s recent Galaxy S8 smartphone launch coincided with the launch of Samsung’s Bixby, its entrant in the virtual assistant market that is expected to become a common interface across all of Samsung’s connected consumer devices over time.
Integrated into the Galaxy S8 line with a dedicated button for activation, Bixby functions less as a cloud-connected virtual assistant and more as a voice-driven local intermediary intended to speed up specific tasks or take the place of touch-based interaction to navigate within apps. Bixby is also capable of image-based recognition and search, similar to Google Goggles’ capabilities of old.
Samsung’s assistant is currently not positioned as a competitor to Google Assistant and Alexa, but instead as a local assistant to aid in basic operation of the Galaxy S8. Samsung’s intent is to allow a seamless mix of touch and touchless interaction based on whatever the user finds most convenient.
At launch, Bixby will only be able to interface / operate with Samsung’s native onboard apps, such as the camera, contacts, settings, calendar, gallery, and messages. To operate with Bixby, apps will need to be Bixby-enabled, and Samsung is hoping to attract substantial third party app developer involvement. The company has yet to release or announce a release of an SDK for Bixby, however.
Samsung recently acquired Viv Labs, but has yet to use any of the company’s AI technology within Bixby. Bixby was developed independently by Samsung, grown out of the company’s S Voice voice recognition / control software that comes preinstalled on its mobile devices. The company is expected to integrate Viv Labs’ AI into Bixby in the near future.
Bixby remains unfinished at this time, and more capabilities are expected to be announced once the Galaxy S8 is released at the end of April, 2017. US English and Korean will be supported by Bixby’s voice capabilities at launch, with European language support added later in 2017.