We’ve heard rumors before regarding Samsung’s AI bot efforts expected to debut sometime in 2017. Today via a press release, the company announced an assistant named Bixby, and by the looks of it, this bot may actually be pretty useful.
According to Samsung, Bixby was built not to robotically respond to queries like what the weather is or how many feet tall the Eiffel Tower stands. Instead, it’s built to improve your current experience across various devices, namely your phone, TV, and even air conditioner. This means that apps will be able to integrate Bixby to a degree that every function within said apps that usually require a tap or press with your finger will be accessible via your voice, not just certain commands that may or may not work. You’ll be able to call upon Bixby whenever and however you’d like (touch or voice, your pick), while the assistant will also understand what you’re currently doing and not interrupt you to a degree that you may lose work or progress by switching to another screen or interface.
Samsung goes further into detail regarding Bixby’s functions below.
Bixby will be a new intelligent interface on our devices. Fundamentally different from other voice agents or assistants in the market, Bixby offers a deeper experience thanks to proficiency in these three properties:
When an application becomes Bixby-enabled, Bixby will be able to support almost every task that the application is capable of performing using the conventional interface (ie. touch commands). Most existing agents currently support only a few selected tasks for an application and therefore confuse users about what works or what doesn’t work by voice command. The completeness property of Bixby will simplify user education on the capability of the agent, making the behaviors of the agent much more predictable.
2. Context Awareness
When using a Bixby-enabled application, users will be able to call upon Bixby at any time and it will understand the current context and state of the application and will allow users to carry out the current work-in-progress continuously. Bixby will allow users to weave various modes of interactions including touch or voice at any context of the application, whichever they feel is most comfortable and intuitive. Most existing agents completely dictate the interaction modality and, when switching among the modes, may either start the entire task over again, losing all the work in progress, or simply not understand the user’s intention.
3. Cognitive Tolerance
When the number of supported voice commands gets larger, most users are cognitively challenged to remember the exact form of the voice commands. Most agents require users to state the exact commands in a set of fixed forms. Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal. This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use.
In addition, Samsung will open an SDK to developers for accessing Bixby and integrating it into applications.
Samsung says Bixby will launch first on the upcoming Galaxy S8 which will feature a dedicated Bixby button along its side. This will arrive alongside some pre-installed apps that’ll feature access to the assistant. In the future, the company will build the AI into other products.
With Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant currently dominating the whole consumer AI bot market, it’s unclear how well Bixby will perform and what type of response it’ll get from users. If it’s anything like Samsung touts, it probably wouldn’t even compete with the likes of Siri or Cortana as they’re practically two different concepts with two different sets of functions. Of course, I’m sure if you really needed it, Bixby could show you next week’s forecast. But for more advanced operations and even simple things you’d expect your voice assistant to function with, Samsung’s offering may be the preferred option.