Samsung has been working on bringing a new, much-improved digital personal assistant to its devices, without having to leverage Google Assistant to achieve that goal.
The company took steps to accomplishing that goal when it purchased the Viv digital personal assistant from the original creators of Siri last year. Now, 18 months after it began work on that initiative, Samsung is ready to unveil what it’s been working on. It is officially known as Bixby, and it will make its debut on the upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone.
Samsung is aiming to make Bixby an essential part of the Galaxy S8, expanding its usefulness just beyond being able to set reminders, look up sports scores, or effectively get questions to answers. While it will be able to do all of those things, like the major competing platforms can, Samsung wants Bixby to be able to control apps, too. The company has confirmed that a subset of its own apps will work with Bixby to start, meaning owners will be able to use just their voice to control any aspect of that app. Samsung’s goal is that if a user can touch something in an app to make something happen, like a context menu, or a specific function, users should be able to access that same feature with just their voice.
So, for example, you’ll be able to tell Bixby to not only remind you of something, but you can instruct Bixby to do so through a specific app, at a specific time, linking a specific contact, and even share that reminder with a contact as well.
Users will interact with Bixby through a hardware button on the side of the Galaxy S8, so the phone doesn’t need to be awake to use the feature, either. And Bixby will be contextual, too, so if users transition between voice control and touch screen controls, the digital personal assistant will not lose track of the user’s place, and they won’t have to start over when they switch between the input methods. Finally, one of the other big selling points of Bixby will be cognitive tolerance, which will allow the digital personal assistant to “understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge.”
Samsung will show off Bixby at the Unpacked event on March 29, and Bixby will make its debut on the Galaxy S8. Samsung, of course, plans on bringing the digital personal assistant to other devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets, and even appliances.
Finally, while Bixby-ready apps will only be available from Samsung to start, the company plans on launching an SDK for developers, so they can make their apps work with voice only input as well. Bixby will initially be available in spoken English and Korean, but more languages will be adopted in the future.
We’ll get to see Bixby in action, along with the official unveiling of the Galaxy S8 smartphone on March 29.