Samsung’s AI-powered Bixby assistant will go beyond just smartphones

Samsung’s new personal assistant is designed to offer more flexibility to users


Bixby will be available on Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone which is expected to launch in the next few days. Photo: Bloomberg
Bixby will be available on Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone which is expected to launch in the next few days. Photo: Bloomberg

After Google, Amazon, Apple and HTC, it is now the turn of Samsung to dabble with the idea of an AI (artificial intelligence) powered personal assistant app, called Bixby.

It will be available on Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone which is expected to launch in the next few days.

Initially, this new personal assistant will only work with a bunch of pre-loaded apps, and will be available with Samsung phones that will be launched this year and beyond. Since it relies on dedicated hardware, it will not work with existing Samsung Galaxy phones. However, Samsung is working on a SDK (software development kit) tool for developers that will allow them to integrate Bixby into their apps too.

Bixby is the outcome of Samsung’s new-found interest in AI-based tools and led it to acquire US-based AI VIV Labs last year.

How it works

Bixby is a voice- and touch-enabled personal assistant and works on similar lines as Google Assistant but with some extra features, according to Samsung.

Bixby can be activated any time, even when the phone is locked, through a dedicated button.

In a regular scenario, to make a phone call, users have to unlock the phone, look for the phone app and search for the contact they want to call in the contact search bar. Even in Google Assistant, users will have to unlock the phone to ask it to make a call. With Bixby-enabled smartphones, users can make a call by pressing the dedicated button that will feature on upcoming Samsung Galaxy phones (such as the upcoming Galaxy S8) and command Bixby to make a call.

According to Samsung, users can launch Bixby in any app that is compatible with it and ask for help. Bixby can gather context and will try to understand what is going on the screen and provide help accordingly. It sounds a lot like Google’s Now on Tap feature which also helped users by understanding the content in any app and showed more options with related content. With Bixby, users can get things done through voice commands as well as touch-based inputs, unlike Google Now on Tap, which relied on physical inputs on the touch display to select an option or menu.

How is it different from other personal assistants?

Though Samsung hasn’t revealed much on how Bixby exactly works, it claims that Bixby is not entirely meant to provide more accurate and context-based answers to questions, but to assist users in multiple other ways.

It can also understand user commands with incomplete information and will put them together to get things done. For example, when a user asks a badly phrased question, it will ask users for some specifics and use this information gathered in patches to provide an answer.

It can also be used with other apps completely through voice commands and not allow the assistant to dictate the mode of interaction. Google Assistant and Siri entertain voice commands only to an extent. Users have to fall back on the touch input after a point. While it sounds interesting, we are yet to see how effective it turns out to be.

Beyond smartphones

Samsung intends to make Bixby a regular feature with all its smart devices in the future. It will be deployed first in smartphones, but will be seen in Samsung’s air conditioners and TVs in the future.

According to In Jong Rhee, head of R&D, software and services at Samsung, “Bixby is at the heart of our software and services evolution as a company. As the Bixby ecosystem grows, we believe it will evolve from a smartphone interface to an interface for your life.”

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