Samsung Bixby Digital Assistant increases the possibilities – but if it's too late, it's still a question.
The South Korean company on Wednesday will start its two-day developer conference in San Francisco. The fifth annual conference marks the company's great pressure to make developers make software specific to their devices. Previously, it meant making apps that would work on the edge of Samsung's curvy smartphone or would use its S Pen stylus. This year, the focus is on Bixby and artificial intelligence.
While the prospect of– The long-reputed Galaxy F – can pull the eye balls to Samsung at 10:00 PT (1 p.m. ET), it's more a plague about what's coming. The meat in the presentation will focus on now: get Bixby smarter. The consumer electronics giant can share more information about Bixby-powered Galaxy Home smart speakers as featured in August, including sales date.
Samsung plans to let all third-party developers talk in Bixby, according to the Wall Street Journal. Soon, companies will be able to make "capsules" similar to Amazon Alexa's "skills" to make things like ordering food using a voice command, said the paper.
The move would fulfill a promise made by Samsung when it launched Bixby on the Galaxy S8 in early 2017 and when it introduced version 2.0 of artificial intelligence technology later this year: Bixby opens up third party apps. The goal is to help Bixby compete with Amazon's Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google's assistant at a time when digital helpers are all rage so you can call a Uber tour or control your smart home with your voice.
For Samsung and many others, artificial intelligence is the next big wave of computers. Every tech heavyweight invests in these assistants because they are ruled as the future for how we interact with our gadgets. The ultimate promise of smart technology is to predict what you want before you even ask – but in most cases, the digital assistants are not smart enough yet.
The problem with Samsung is it may be too late.
"They are very far behind," says Strategy Analytics analyst Jack Narcotta. "They may be far enough behind, they may not be able to reach any of the market leaders effectively."
Only 4 percent of American adults using voice assistants on a smartphone use Bixby, according to a survey by Voicebox.AI. That corresponds to 44 percent for Apple Siri, 30 percent using Google Assistant and 17 percent for Alexa.
Samsung refused to comment on its developer conference.
Bixby is equally bad in smart devices beyond the phone, like smart speakers. Even though it is the world's largest smartphone and television manufacturer and one of the largest household appliances. In total, Amazon dominates the digital assistant market without nearly a quarter of Americans using it, according to market researcher Ovum. Samsung traces behind with just 6 percent uptake.
"The competition in the AI assistant market has been heated," said the company.
A bright sidekick
Samsung has built up its opportunities in software and services over the past decade, but it has had more flops than successes. Various services have been launched over the years – including Bixby's predecessor, S Voice – just to scrape them a few months or years later. Instead of using its home-made Tizen operating system in its advanced smartphones, Samsung has turned on laptop software and other products and continues to rely on Google's Android software to run their smartphones and tablets.
While Bixby has its own dedicated button on the side of Galaxy smartphones, Samsung device users can still access Google Assistant via the home key. Given the option between Google Assistant and Bixby, many choose for Google, analysts said.
"Most people start using digital assistants with difficult things like searching," says Creative Strategy analyst Carolina Milanesi. Because that's not what Bixby was built for, the results are often disappointing "so people never go back."
She added that it would be difficult for people to give up Google Assistant on a phone unless Samsung makes it difficult for technology to access the technology. "But I would not advise them to do that," she said, "if not [Bixby] is incredibly better. "
When Bixby was launched a year ago, the goal was that the technology would act as a "bright sidekick" on smartphones, enabling users to easily do things like taking a screenshot or finding a photo and sending it to a friend. It was a new interface, not a full-featured digital assistant who could tell you how long Abraham Lincoln was or Kansass capital.
An image recognition component, called Bixby Vision, was able to identify landmarks, types of wine, products and text for translation. Bixby would tell you what the goods were and in the United States, you send to Amazon to buy them.
First, Bixby worked with only 10 Samsung preloaded apps. From the beginning, Samsung said that it was planned to allow third party developers to take advantage of Bixby. This is partly why it bought AI-start Viv Labs and Joyent, a cloud computing company, 2016.
Viv was meant to handle everyday tasks, such as ordering flowers, booking hotel rooms and investigating weather conditions, all in response to natural language commands. The creators – who included one of Siri's decision makers, Dag Kittlaus – claim that their software understands your wishes and engages in conversation with you to fulfill them, instead of speaking formulated commands that other AI assistants do.
The original version of Bixby only used the technology that Samsung created internally. But Bixby 2.0, which Samsung revealed at its developer conference a year ago, integrated predictive technology from Viv. Launch on Galaxy Note 9 in August, Samsung says that Bixby 2.0 is smarter than its first version, with deep-connect features and enhanced natural language capabilities. It can better recognize individual users and better predict human needs.
During the past year, Samsung has also worked with selected partners on apps that enter Bixby, the first step before opening their software development program to a greater extent at SDC 2018. And Bixby has made its way to Samsung's new Galaxy Watch, 2018 smart TV and the company's Family Hub refrigerator.
Gradually, Bixby has become more than a smart side kick.
"Now it's not just about being different [user interface] helper, "Milanesi said." It's about being a full-blown assistant. "
An intelligent future
Samsung can build Bixby's capacity, but the best way to focus on specific uses instead of being everything for everyone, says analyst. This may mean that you target cars through the Harman business, which is an important car supplier. Or it may slip on devices, languages or other areas it has an edge over competitors, says IHS Markit analyst Blake Kozak.
"Samsung is probably late for the market to compete with Google and Amazon's infrastructure and breadth," he said. "Instead, [it] should become a specialist or at least the de facto standard for Samsung devices. "
Samsung also needs to make several versions of its Galaxy Home speaker, analysts say. The first version is likely to be expensive, but it should also make cheaper versions that cost $ 40 and less – cheap enough to compete with Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home.
Although it may be behind, Samsung does not give up on Bixby. Over the past year, the company has opened seven AI research centers around the world, including in the US, South Korea and Russia to make its digital assistant smarter. It plans to hire 1000 artificial intelligence specialists by 2020 – the same timeframe is given to make all its products online and integrated with Bixby.
"We are a unit company," said Samsung Hyun-Suk, Samsung Consumer Electronics CEO in May. "The rules of the game are different. It's not right to see it as a matter of being early or late."
Overall, Samsung aims to develop a highly personalized multifunctional platform that allows people to achieve more in their lives, says a press release announcing a new AI center in October.
Now, it's only hoping that developers – and users – will be on board.
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