Samsung puts Bixby everywhere

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Samsung puts Bixby everywhere

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Kim Hyun-seok, the president of Samsung Electronics’ consumer electronics division, presents the company’s Internet of Things platform powered by its Bixby virtual assistant at a press event on Thursday. [YONHAP]

If Samsung gets its way, devices equipped with its year-old virtual assistant Bixby could be scattered across the average household’s apartment.

The company introduced a plan to expand its Internet of Things-based services built on Bixby in a press event on Thursday where it rolled out its strategy to become a leader in artificial intelligence.

“For IoT to spread across each household, an intelligent service customized for each individual user is a must - beyond the ability to remotely control devices and connect with other devices,” said Kim Hyun-seok, president of consumer electronics at Samsung Electronics, at a conference in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul. “We will come up with more advanced products and services by tying home IoT technologies to Bixby.”

Samsung established an AI center under Samsung Research last year as part of its push to commercialize more AI technologies.

Kim said the company plans to hire more than 1,000 AI engineers from across the globe and will push for mergers and acquisitions of companies “with nice technologies” in the AI field.

Bixby, Samsung’s AI assistant, was introduced in April last year and was first added to the company’s Galaxy smartphones and Family Hub refrigerators. It can now be used to control other home appliances, such as high-end models of Samsung’s washing machines, air conditioners and televisions. Ovens and robotic vacuums will also soon get their own version of Bixby.

Samsung’s Bixby-equipped air conditioner can detect and keep track of the temperature and humidity at home and outside. It can also determine user’s preferred conditions, such as wind speed, and operate autonomously after analyzing the data, according to Lee Geun-bae, head of Samsung’s AI center.

That’s not all. The air conditioner sends the data to a remote home appliance server after the operation is over to see if there is anything wrong with the machine. If there is a problem, it can notify the after-sales service department to find a fix.

At the end of last year, Samsung combined all of its cloud IoT services into its signature SmartThings Cloud, and released an app to control the service earlier this year. The tech giant also vowed this year to equip all Samsung connected devices with AI by 2020.

In a related effort, Samsung will begin local sales of the SmartThings Hub later in the second half of this year. The Hub is a flat, square device shaped like the Apple TV, and it allows users to connect and control third-party devices at home, such as lights, sensors and door locks.

The Hub works over both Wi-Fi and other wireless communication technologies, such as Zigbee and Z-wave. The gadget was released overseas three years ago, and the reaction has been tepid so far. Kim said Samsung will improve the features and usability by working together with third-party developers.

Kim also said that Samsung will release Bixby 2.0, an upgraded version of the software, as well as an AI speaker later this year. Bixby has been criticized for voice recognition that is still below par when compared to Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. Kim said the feature will be improved “a lot” in Bixby’s second version.


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

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