Samsung to acquire start-up by Siri creators

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Samsung to acquire start-up by Siri creators

Samsung Electronics announced Thursday that it would acquire Viv Labs, an artificial intelligence start-up founded by the creators of Apple’s famed Siri.

“The deal showcases Samsung’s commitment to virtual personal assistants and is part of the company’s broader vision to deliver an AI-based open ecosystem across all of its devices and services,” the company said in a statement.

Samsung did not disclose the terms of the deal or a timeline for when the acquisition will be completed, though it did say a Viv-based voice assistant function would appear on the company’s phones later next year.

The San Jose, California-based start-up, established in 2012, has already raised $30 million from investors. Since mid-2014, both Facebook and Google had reportedly expressed interest in acquiring the Silicon Valley start-up with offers of between $100 million and $200 million.

But Viv Labs rebuffed the offers, believing that “the key to winning the AI assistance race is by acting as a neutral portal for third-party developers,” The Wall Street Journal reported in January.

The deal comes less than two months after Samsung made public its acquisition of Dacor, a leading U.S.-based luxury kitchen appliances maker, for $100 million. In the past couple of years, Samsung, the world’s No. 1 smartphone manufacturer, has been snapping up start-ups as well as established enterprises with cutting-edge technologies and growth potential in order to sustain its leadership amid fierce competition in the tech sector.

Viv is a voice assistant that aims to handle everyday tasks ranging from ordering food to checking weather conditions all on its own through voice commands from the user.

Injong Rhee, chief technology officer of Samsung’s mobile communications business, said Viv is distinct from existing AI-based services for its “sophisticated natural language understanding, machine learning capabilities and strategic partnerships that will enrich a broader service ecosystem.”

“Viv was built with both consumers and developers in mind,” he said. “This dual focus is also what attracted us to Viv as an ideal candidate to integrate with Samsung home appliances, wearables and more, as the paradigm of how we interact with technology shifts to intelligent interfaces and voice control.”

Viv Labs was started by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham in 2012. The three were also co-founders of the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center’s spinoff venture Siri, which was acquired by Apple in 2010.

Kittlaus became director of iPhone apps at Apple, running the Siri and speech recognition teams, and Cheyer and Brigham joined him in various roles until they all left to jointly launch Viv Labs.

As part of the acquisition, the founding team will work closely with Samsung’s mobile communications business but continue to operate independently under its existing leadership, Samsung said.

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