With a slew of artificial intelligence platforms – including Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s new Assistant – already in the market, it was only a matter of time before major handset player Samsung came out with its smart interface. And on Monday, it did.
According to Samsung Head of R&D for Software and Services Injong Rhee, Bixby will debut on the company’s Galaxy S8 smartphone set for launch next week. Thanks to a combination of three characteristics – which he listed as completeness, context awareness, and cognitive tolerance – Rhee said Bixby will be “fundamentally different” from other voice agents in the market.
“We do have a bold vision of revolutionizing the human-to-machine interface, but that vision won’t be realized overnight. Ambition takes time,” Rhee wrote. “Bixby will be our first step on a journey to completely open up new ways of interacting with your phone.”
Unlike other existing agents that can only support a handful of tasks for each application, Rhee said Bixby will be able to support almost every task that an application is capable of via traditional touch screen interactions. Rhee said Bixby will also be able to understand the current context and state of each application to weave together both voice and touch interactions into one fluid interaction.
Additionally, Rhee said Bixby will come with some serious smarts – enough to understand commands with incomplete information, and ask for next steps when it needs them.
“At its core, Bixby will help remove friction,” Rhee added. “It will simplify user education with new voice interfaces and will make using your phone even more seamless and intuitive.”
And part of the quest to remove friction will come in the form of a dedicated Bixby button added to the side of Samsung’s next device. This, Rhee said, will not only avoid confusion about how to activate Bixby, but also allow users to carry out multi-tap actions (like finding a contact and placing a call) via Bixby with just one button press.
Rhee revealed the Galaxy S8 will come with a subset of Bixby-enabled pre-installed applications. The AI will be incorporated into more applications over time, and Samsung even plans to release an SDK tool to enable third parties to make their applications and services Bixby-enabled.
And Bixby isn’t just for Samsung’s smartphones. Rhee indicated the interface will “gradually” be incorporated into the company’s appliances as well.
The introduction of Bixby comes just five months after Samsung acquired California-based AI company Viv Labs. Viv was perhaps most well-known for its development of Apple’s digital helper, Siri.
Samsung’s entrance to the AI space doesn’t come a minute too soon. Both Gartner and HIS have pegged AI as the “next key growth area” for smartphones.
Gartner predicted the continuing the steady march of technology over the next few years will take us in a new direction, moving increasingly away from touch as the main mode of interaction with our devices in favor of “more intuitive” exchanges. Last month, IHS forecasted the smartphone installed base for AI will climb past six billion by 2020.