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Samsung’s Siri AI Rival Bixby Will Debut With The Galaxy S8

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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Samsung has officially unveiled Bixby, its own virtual assistant to take on Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant.

Samsung has officially unveiled Bixby, its own virtual assistant to take on Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant.

Bixby has been teased for sometime but it will now make is debut on 29 Mach, the same date as the official reveal of the Samsung Galaxy S8.

The virtual assistant’s raison d’etre is to genuinely assist people with navigating the increasingly complex interfaces and functions of their smartphones.

It could be argued that Samsung’s rather fussy TouchWiz user interface built on top of Google’s Android is one such perpetrator of such a problem.

Bixby button

Samsung Galaxy S8Samsung noted the (Still unconfirmed, remember) Galaxy S8 will have a dedicated Bixby button on the side of the smartphone designed to fire up the virtual assistant.

From there Bixby will look to stand apart from other virtual assistants by enabling users to control do nearly everything they can with touch controls with voice commands directed at Bixby; the likes of Siri and the Google Assistant tend to be more for answering questions rather than carrying out tasks.

InJong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D at Samsung’s software and services division, outlined the philosophy behind this approach, noting that the company has tapped into artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to enable Bixby to learn from its interactions with its users.

“User interface designers have to make trade-off decisions in order to cram many functions into a small screen or bury them deeper in layers of menu trees. Ultimately users are at the mercy of designers with an increasingly steep curve that makes learning about a new device difficult. This is the fundamental limitation of the current human-to-machine interface and since Samsung makes millions of devices, this problem impacts the core of our business,” he said.

“Samsung has a conceptually new philosophy to target this problem: instead of humans learning how a machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the designers’ abilities), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.

samsung mwc

“The interface must be natural and intuitive enough to flatten the learning curve regardless of the number of functions being added. With this new approach, Samsung has employed artificial intelligence, reinforcing deep learning concepts to the core of our user interface designs. Bixby is the ongoing result of this effort.”

With this in mind, Rhee explained that Bixby will b able to understand the context of its user’s interactions in a similar fashion to the Google Assistant, and will be smart enough to figure out voice commands even if they do not fit exact pre-programmed commands.

When the Galaxy S8 launched, pre-installed apps will come with Bixby functionality. But Samsung plans to release a software development kit to enable third-party developers to add Bixby functionality into their apps and effectively create an ecosystem around the virtual assistant.

Bixby will make its debut in the Galaxy S8, but Rhee noted that Samsung will be pushing the virtual assistant into more of its devices, likely beginning with tablets and TV and expanding into other parts of Samsung’s electronics portfolio. Given Bixby is cloud-based, Rhee said that all Samsung devices need is a simply circuit for picking up voice inputs, so we could expect a Samsung smart fridge with its very own Bixby.

With the virtual assistant market becoming increasingly crowded, we will have to see if Bixby can rally stand out from Siri, Cortana and the Google Assistant or if it just adds to the noise of pseudo AIs on smartphones.

Silicon will of course be present at the Samsung Galaxy S8 launch event next week to tell you more.

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