Samsung’s Bixby 2.0 Aims to Be Smarter and More Natural, But I’m Not Buying It

Today at a developer conference, Samsung took the wraps off a major update to its virtual assistant, Bixby. Called Bixby 2.0, the company aims to make its AI technology “more personal, with enhanced natural language capabilities for more natural commands and complex processing, so it can really get to know and understand not only who you are, but who members of your family are, and tailor its response and actions appropriately.”

Bixby 2.0 is a bold reinvention of the platform. A reinvention aimed at transforming basic digital assistants from a novelty to an intelligence tool that is a key part of everyone’s daily life.

According to Samsung, they’ll be building Bixby 2.0 so it’s much smarter and more natural to use than it is now. They’ll be recruiting developers to continuously work on the technology and deploy it to virtually everywhere – refrigerators, washing machines, you name it. A Bixby SDK will make all of this possible. Samsung even says utilities that plug into Bixby won’t need to be optimized for each device Bixby is on. Simply develop it once and you’re all set.

However, this is all pretty ambitious. Bixby wasn’t launched more than six months ago, and up until now, it’s been taking up precious hardware real estate on Galaxy S8s and Note 8s around the world. I say this because there’s a dedicated button to activate the assistant which, mind you, is easily mistaken as a power button by many. Bixby isn’t even that smart, with most questions I ask it resulting in an “I can’t understand that” response or something similar. Clearly, Samsung needs to work on it, so I hope Bixby 2.0 can bring some fixes I’ve desperately wanted to see from the assistant since day one.

But this still seems a little rushed. Samsung’s calling this major update to Bixby “the start of the next paradigm shift in devices” and “a bold reinvention of the platform.” Bixby hasn’t been out for more than six months! Clearly, it sounds like Samsung is admitting defeat to the original version of Bixby and hopes to improve it with this new version.

And yes, I realize I’m sounding a bit harsh, so I’ll try to calm down as I aggressively type on my poor laptop’s keyboard. Seriously though, wasn’t Samsung’s ambitions from the start to put Bixby everywhere? I guess they’re now realizing the service needs to be more than it is now, a sad alternative to the already-fantastic Google Assistant.

Who knows? Maybe Samsung will wow us with this new version of Bixby and make it faster, smarter and nicer to use. Until I see it, however, I’m not sure if I’ll be buying this news.