Not to be outdone by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon or any of the other Silicon Valley software giants with machine learning-powered assistants, Samsung is reportedly readying machine intelligence of its own. On Sunday, Samsung announced it would include a new AI assistant with its forthcoming Galaxy S8, and that it would combine conversational language and integration with third-party services to perform tasks, dictate messages, and respond to queries on demand. And now, it appears to have a name: Bixby.
Samsung filed a trademark in South Korea for “Bixby” in October, for a “computer software for personal information management” — more specifically, “computer application software for smartphones, mobile telephones, portable computers and tablet computers … used to operate voice recognition system[s] … [and enable] hands-free use of a mobile phone through voice recognition.”
That description, albeit vague, would appear to fit intelligent assistants of the sort featured in Google’s Android operating system, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone, and Amazon’s Echo speakers.
In October, Samsung acquired Viv, an artificial intelligence startup founded by Dag Kittlaus, Chris Brigham, Adam Cheyer, and much of the same engineering team responsible for Apple’s Siri. Viv, the details of which were never revealed publicly, was said to offer a platform which enabled third-party developers to tap into its capabilities. All the more impressive, it reportedly provided a framework for natural language-based interfaces in apps and services — i.e., voice-navigated menus and custom commands.
“The deal showcases Samsung’s commitment to virtual personal assistants,” Injong Rhee, CTO of Samsung’s Mobile Communications business, said in a press release following the acquisition. “Viv was built with both consumers and developers in mind. 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.”
An artificially intelligent assistant isn’t the Galaxy S8’s only reported highlight. Samsung’s upcoming flagship, which is expected to debut at Mobile World Congress in February, improves upon its predecessor’s hardware in significant ways. It’s rumored to ship in two variants, one with a 5.1-inch 2K (2,048 by 1,080 pixels) Super AMOLED display and another with a 5.5-inch 4K (2,096 by 2,160 pixels) screen.
Under the hood, both will reportedly pack cutting-edge silicon in the form of either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 830 processor or Samsung’s Exynos 8895. And both are expected to pack a dual-camera system, potentially called “LightUp Camera” or “Light+ Camera,” that pairs a 16-megapixel camera sensor with a companion 8-megapixel module for the purpose of improving low-light performance.
Samsung is counting on the new device being a blockbuster hit. On Wednesday, Samsung reported revenue of $42 billion and profit $4.6 billion year-over-year declines respectively. Its mobile division was the hardest hit: revenue dipped to $87.9 million, down 96 percent year-over-year and the lowest in eight years.
Not surprisingly, the firm attributed a majority of those losses to the launch of the Galaxy Note 7, which the company later recalled as a result of well-publicized defects that caused some units to spontaneously explode. During Samsung’s last earnings call, it projected recovery for the mobile division, and specifically a profit of $1.9 billion by the end of this year.
Updated on 11-07-2016 by Lulu Chang: Added news that Samsung confirmed launch of new AI digital assistant with Galaxy S8.