Samsung Bixby -- what the virtual assistant can do

Anything you can do, I can do better

At least, that might be what Samsung is thinking, as it officially announces its own voice assistant in an already crowded market. So what exactly can Samsung's A.I.-powered assistant do, and what differentiates it from the other products out there?

In IT Blogwatch, we use our inside voice. 

So what is going on? Matt Hamblen tells us what's up:

Samsung revealed...that Bixby, an intelligent voice assistant, will run on the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone slated to be announced March 29.
Bixby will be activated using a special physical button on, differentiating it from some other assistants that rely on a trigger word, like "Alexa" or "Siri."

Great. So what do we know about Bixby beyond that? Kellex has some details:

Bixby will work with applications, but they’ll have to be “Bixby-enabled”...on the Galaxy S8, Samsung has...said that only a “subset of preinstalled applications” will be Bixby-enabled...We’re more than likely just talking about the stock Samsung apps here, like phone, messaging, email, calendar, etc...this is going to be a slow buildout of Bixby-enabling and will probably take years to be fully realized...At some point Samsung will release an SDK to let developers get in on the Bixby action, but that time is not now, apparently.

And how will the voice assistant work on these Bixby-enabled apps? Nat Levy fills us in:

Bixby...will be able to interpret and process incomplete information and perform pretty much every task in an app via voice commands. Currently, Samsung said, voice assistants can only pick a small variety of functions within an app and are mostly unable to understand context, so the information in a request has to be spot on.

But how will it actually function on the phone? Shara Tibken has more details:

At first...Bixby available in only English and Korean, with Chinese and U.S. Spanish added shortly thereafter. You can access "Bixby Home" by swiping left to where Flipboard used to be...Bixby Home includes cards with suggestions to make your life easier. If you typically call your mom at 4 p.m....a card will suggest that before the phone.
Bixby also has an image-recognition component, called Bixby Vision, that identifies landmarks, types of wine, products and text for translation. Bixby will tell you what...items are and, in the U.S., send you to Amazon to buy them.

Why is Samsung going all in with Bixby? Steve Kovach has some answers:

The principle behind Bixby appears to be that phones have grown too complicated to use, therefore you need a more natural way to interact with the technology. It's the same concept being explored on...devices like Amazon's Echo and Google Home, but hasn't...found its way to phones and computers yet. While you can control your iPhone with Siri and some Android phones with Google Assistant, it's still more natural to tap on the screen the old-fashioned way.

So how will Bixby differentiate itself from other A.I. assistants? Ryan Whitwam in in the know:

Samsung...doesn't have the machine learning or wealth of data necessary to compete with Google Assistant, so Bixby won't even try. You won't go to Bixby for answers like an extension of search. Instead, Bixby lets you control apps by voice.

And is Samsung going to stop with smartphones? Or will Bixby make it to any other devices? Abhijit Ahaskar has that answer:

Bixby is the outcome of Samsung’s new-found interest in A.I.-based tools...Samsung intends to make Bixby a regular feature with all its smart devices...It will be deployed first in smartphones, but will be seen in Samsung’s air conditioners and TVs in the future.

That is about it, but Mix has one last thing to add:

Samsung is getting Siri-ous.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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