Samsung Officially Details Its Virtual Assistant Bixby

March 20, 2017 - Written By Mihai Matei

Samsung officially announced the details of its new voice assistant ‘Bixby’ in a press release earlier today, describing the product as a ‘new intelligent interface’. As per some of the leaks and rumors so far, in essence, Bixby is a virtual assistant similar to Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri. It will be integrated with the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 flagship lineup but it won’t be limited to the said product. Instead, Samsung intends for Bixby to be integrated with a variety of smart product categories including smartphones, home appliances, PCs and IoT devices.

According to Samsung, the company has created Bixby in an effort to overcome the current fundamental limitations of the human-to-machine interface used by smartphone owners each and every day. In order to do this, Samsung adopted a “conceptually new philosophy to the problem”, in that as opposed to humans having to learn how the machine interacts with the world, the machine “needs to learn and adapt to us.” For this reason, Samsung decided to employ artificial intelligence and implement deep learning concepts at the core of their new design, and Bixby is the end result. However, the company claims that Bixby is “fundamentally different” from other voice assistants available today because of three cornerstone properties called “Completeness”, “Context Awareness” and “Cognitive Tolerance”.

“Completeness” can be viewed as the part of the program designed to extend the functionality of Bixby to other applications. As described by Samsung, “when an application becomes Bixby-enabled” the virtual assistant will be able to perform nearly every task available within the application, not unlike users would perform those task using conventional touch commands. Next in line is Context Awareness, allowing users to call Bixby at any time when using a Bixby-enabled application, and giving Bixby the ability to understand context along with the current state of the application. According to Samsung, Context Awareness allows users to interact with a Bixby-enabled app using multiple input methods, including touch and voice, at any given time. Last but not least, the third property “Cognitive Tolerance” aims to make conversations with Bixby more organic. Generally speaking, a voice-activated AI is programmed to recognize one or multiple commands in their exact form, which is why most virtual assistants require very clear and specific voice commands in order to perform a certain task. This can lead to a daunting user experience and simply put, it highlights the limitations of an AI to understand context. However, Bixby’s Cognitive Tolerance will apparently overcome these limitations as the AI will be capable of understanding even commands that are incomplete, and execute those tasks “to the best of its knowledge”. Bixby can then prompt the user to provide additional information, which can lead to a more natural way of interacting with the AI and perform the task “in piecemeal”.

Samsung confirmed that Bixby will be available on the Samsung Galaxy S8, adding that a number of pre-installed application will already enjoy integration with Bixby. The company also intends to expand Bixby to other products including home appliances, and last but not least, Samsung intends to “eventually release” an SDK (Software Development Kit) which will allow third-party application developers to integrate Bixby with their products.