Take two for Samsung’s Bixby

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Take two for Samsung’s Bixby

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Koh Dong-jin, president of Samsung Electronics’ mobile business, speaks at the company’s developer conference in San Francisco on Thursday. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]

Samsung Electronics on Thursday unveiled the second generation of its artificial intelligence voice assistant Bixby, which will be open to third-party developers and installed in the company’s non-smartphone products, including televisions and refrigerators, next year.

The announcement, made at the tech giant’s developer conference in San Francisco, came four months after the release of the first generation of Bixby jointly developed by Viv Labs, a company founded by the creators of Apple’s Siri and acquired later by Samsung.

The company first shipped an inactivate version of Bixby with the Galaxy S8 in March, and the voice assistant has so far only been available on certain models in Samsung’s flagship line of Galaxy phones. The Korean version was released on May 1 and the English version on July 19. Samsung says over 10 million people in 200 countries are currently using Bixby.

“Now, Bixby will sit at the center of consumers’ intelligent ecosystem,” Samsung said in a media release. “Bixby 2.0 will introduce deep linking capabilities and enhanced natural language abilities to better recognize individual users, and create a predictive, personalized experience that better anticipates their needs.”

Rhee In-jong, executive vice president and head of research and development at Samsung, demonstrated how smart Bixby had become during a presentation in front of 5,000 developers.

“Hi Bixby, find my daughter’s latest photo,” he instructed his Galaxy Note8. The display then showed a picture of his daughter, currently deployed in Iraq with the U.S. Army. Rhee then commanded Bixby to write a post with the photo on Twitter, and the voice assistant obliged.

“We will continue building up an intelligent ecosystem that is more personalized and open,” Rhee told developers. By opening up the Bixby kit, Samsung aims to let developers build new apps and modify existing ones to integrate them with the voice assistant, ultimately helping Bixby compete against Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. At the conference, Samsung also demonstrated Project Ambience, in which the company hopes to apply artificial intelligence to everyday household objects.

On stage, Samsung demonstrated a lamp attached with a coin-sized Bixby dongle that allows users to “talk” to the lamp and ask it for recommendations. The dongle, currently a prototype, makes it possible for any household object to become a personal assistant that responds to voice commands, the company said.

Samsung, currently the world’s largest manufacturer of smartphones, told developers it remained committed to advancing technologies for augmented reality, in which computer-generated images are superimposed in the real world.

Through a partnership with Google, developers will be able to use the ARCore software kit to bring augmented reality apps to millions of Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note8 users, said Koh Dong-jin, president of Samsung’s mobile business.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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