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Samsung's Bixby assistant now lets you swap short phrases for lengthy commands

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Repeating the same lengthy, convoluted command to a voice assistant over and over again becomes annoying pretty quickly — especially if it’s something basic. Luckily, Samsung knows your pain, and has the solution: Shortcuts. On Wednesday, some Galaxy S8 units received an update with support for “short Bixby voice command support” in tow.

Starting in Seoul, South Korea, this week, Samsung’s AI-powered digital assistant, will remember short key phrases from your commands, eliminating the need to shout an entire phrase or sentence again. If you say, “Bixby, please, check the balance of my bank account,” for example, it will remember works like “balance” and “bank account.” The next time the you want to check the balance, you only need say, “Bixby, account balance,” or, “Bixby, bank account.”

It’s a little like shortcuts on the Google Assistant. In May, Google’s artificially intelligent helper gained support for abbreviated, programmable voice commands — instead of having to say, “Play workout music on Google Play Music to my basement speaker,” for example, you could shorten the command to “Start workout.” But Google Assistant commands have to be configured manually; Bixby, it appears, is smart enough to create its own.

Samsung’s answer to voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, Bixby can respond to basic questions about the weather, upcoming meetings, sports scores, and movie screenings — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Samsung’s assistant will eventually work across apps like the Galaxy S8’s dialer, text messenger, settings menu, camera app, contacts list, and Gallery.

But it is not clear when it might come to the U.S. In April, Samsung announced that the voice activation and control would not be available in English until later this year — reportedly because Bixby’s English-language performance fell short of its Korean, according to The Wall Street Journal. In June, Samsung delayed Bixby’s English-language features again; it is now expected to launch in June.

But Samsung has improved Bixby in the meantime. It recently added banking support for users in South Korea — Shinhan Bank, Woori Bank, and KEB Hana Bank customers to check their bank account balances and transfer money to other friends. And Samsung says it will eventually perform actions like rotating misaligned photos, playing videos and sending them to nearby televisions, and composing emails.

Eventually, Samsung hopes to expand Bixby beyond smartphones. The company sees the technology in television remote controls, smartwatches, smart refrigerators, and even washing machines.

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