Samsung is not going to be left out of the artificial intelligence revolution, but realises it can’t do everything itself, and that only by purchasing innovative companies can it ensure it’s at the front of the pack. That’s why it has acquired Viv Labs, an expert in artificial intelligence, with the plan of bringing its talents to Galaxy phones and other appliances in the future.
You may recognise Viv Labs’s name, and that’s because it was co-founded by Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyner, who also happen to have developed Siri, Apple’s AI assistant. While it’s Samsung Electronics that made the acquisition, Viv Labs will be working with closest with Samsung Mobile, and the plan is to integrate its smarts with Galaxy phones, wearables, and even home appliances.
However, while Samsung is the company’s new owner, Viv Labs will operate independently, a clause of the agreement that fits with Viv Labs vision of a ubiquitous, trusted virtual assistant, “that’s a regular part of our everyday lives.” It doesn’t want Viv — the name of its assistant — to be another Siri, locked into a single ecosystem. The intention is to have Viv integrated with everything, and for that to happen, it needs autonomy to act outside of Samsung’s world.
Samsung may end up benefiting greatly from Viv Labs world dominating ambitions. The platform, rarely demonstrated but seen at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this year, is designed to interact with apps, devices, and other services far more deeply that we’re used to with Siri. The developer friendly stance should lead to Viv being more helpful, knowledgeable, and able to do more for us. Interaction is more conversational, and the demo showed Viv can understand very complex requests. Even more impressively, Viv can apparently adapt to previously unknown requests, and effectively write its own code to help solve a problem.
Viv Labs work on Viv began four years ago, around two years after Apple acquired Siri, and has apparently since entertained bids from both Google and Facebook. Choosing Samsung, says Viv Labs in a statement, means it can tap into the millions of devices, from TVs to phones, it sells annually. It’s also attracted to Samsung’s continuing interest in software, the Internet of Things, and mobile payments.
The announcement comes rapidly after Google made its big push into artificial intelligence with Assistant, which is about to debut on the new Pixel smartphones and Google Home. It joins Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana in the exciting world of artificially intelligent virtual helpers installed on our phones, and other devices. At the moment, Samsung has a degree of voice control on its Galaxy devices using S Voice (or Google’s own Android voice control), but it’s not comparable in terms of functionality to other virtual assistants.
Neither Samsung nor Viv Labs talk about when we’ll see Viv integrated into Samsung devices. The next major smartphone release from the company is expected to be the Galaxy S8, but we’re also keeping a watch on the so-called Galaxy X, its innovative folding smartphone rumoured for some time. Will either of these be our first chance to chat to Viv? We don’t know yet, but we can’t wait to find out.
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