Samsung has launched the next version of its voice assistant Bixby, with technology from the creators of Siri baked into the product.
Viv was an intelligent voice assistant software company established by the developers of Siri, after they sold that business to Apple. Apple now uses Siri widely on iPhones and Apple TV.
Viv was then acquired by Samsung last year, but the Korean company’s newest smartphones Galaxy S8, S8+ and Galaxy Note8 have used its own voice assistant named Bixby, rather than Viv.
That all changed at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, as the company announced a new version of Bixby while revealing that Viv technology has been integrated into it.
Samsung chief technology officer Injong Rhee told the audience that the smartphone industry had a problem with ever-expanding functionality but limited screen space to access those features.
This is where voice assistants come in, to enable verbal commands as a shortcut to perform actions that would require complex interactions on a touchscreen.
Rhee demonstrated this “flattening” of the user interface on stage to program a one-word command to pick out a picture of his daughter from his phone and post to Twitter.
This is the tweet that went out live on stage:
My daughter — proud dad pic.twitter.com/PpozhDdr7d
— Injong Rhee (@itrainrhee) October 18, 2017
Rhee said voice commands are even more important for connected devices that lack a screen altogether, and introduced Project Ambience – a dongle, currently under development, that plugs into dumb devices to enable it to be controlled by Bixby.
“If it doesn’t have a screen, voice commands seem to be the most natural way of interacting with a device.”
From 2018, Bixby will also be included in Samsung televisions, as well as Family Hub smart refrigerator.
“You’ll be able to go channel up or channel down, but also search for content… Find a cooking show, show me some action films featuring Tom Cruise,” Samsung chief product officer Giles BianRosa said. “It’s an intelligent assistant, right in your TV.”
Viv co-founder and chief Dag Kittlaus said that it was essential for the adoption of Bixby that it was “ubiquitous” and customisable for each user.
“In two years, my Bixby will be different to yours, and hers, and his.”
Rhee said that the first version of Bixby, even though it was just limited to certain Samsung smartphones, had developed a decent following after just a short time in market.
“I hear last week Bixby reached 10 million subscribers in just three months after launching in the US.”
The journalist travelled to San Francisco courtesy of Samsung Australia.