Samsung will launch a revamped version of its Bixby AI assistant next year, and aims to extend it far beyond smartphones.
In a statement announcing “Bixby 2.0”, Samsung Electronics R&D SVP Eui-Suk Chung says it will be “a bold reinvention of the platform” representing “the next major tectonic shift” in consumer technology after the emergence of the smartphone. It’s a relatively bold claim, given Bixby’s humble beginnings. The virtual assistant arrived to the intensifying AI race as a relatively late competitor, having launched in South Korea in May and expanded worldwide only in August – and even then, it only supported interaction in English and Korean.
Speaking to reporters this week, Samsung Electronics Mobile Communications Business VP Ji Soo Yi said Bixby 2.0 will work with more languages including Hindi as an early addition, which could open the door to significant penetration in the large India market; and in his statement, Eui-Suk Chung points to advanced voice recognition capabilities, asserting that Bixby 2.0 “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.”
But the company’s executives are placing an even stronger emphasis on Bixby 2.0’s expansion to a range of new devices, with Chung point to applications in “everything from our phones, to our fridge, to our sprinkler system”, and Samsung North America CEO Tim Baxter telling an interviewer at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit that this “will create new multi-device experiences and new benefits for consumers.”
The language echoes some of the messaging in a promotional video issued by Samsung earlier this year in which it asserted that “[a]s a leader in the Internet of Things, Samsung is looking to establish a payment ecosystem in the world of connected devices,” one driven in large part by the company’s pioneering use of iris recognition technology. Now, the announcement of Bixby 2.0 may point to an important role for voice recognition, as well; at the very least, it further underlines Samsung’s ambitions in integrating its technology into an expanding – and increasingly intelligent – device ecosystem.
The announcement comes amid a boom in artificial intelligence R&D across the tech industry, with industry giants like Amazon and Google placing a strong focus on their own voice assistant platforms as well. And given that Samsung recently announced a new AI lab at the University of Montreal and a partnership with AI and machine vision expert Kakao, it’s worth taking its proclaimed aspirations for Bixby seriously.