Samsung’s Bixby software is their answer to digital assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, all three of which are have been integrated with mobile devices at this point, and now Samsung has joined in with Bixby that has officially launched with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, which the company just announced earlier this morning at Unpacked. Bixby wouldn’t be the first digital assistant that Samsung has implemented in a smartphone or tablet, as they have had S Voice since much earlier versions of the Galaxy S lineup, but Bixby is much more than S Voice and provides a wealth of functionality that S Voice couldn’t, here’s what you need to know about what Bixby is, and what makes it special as well as what makes it stand out from the pack.
First and foremost, Bixby will allow users utilize nearly any task or feature that can be interacted with using the touch interface of the phone simply by speaking to it as long as the app is Bixby-enabled. This is probably the most noticeable way that Bixby will be different from the likes of other digital assistants, as it will aim to support pretty much anything an app is capable of, whether that be composing an email, adding an attachment to that email, or snapping a picture with the camera all without doing anything but speaking. While this is sure to be one of the most enticing reasons why users may want to familiarize themselves with Bixby on their new Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 Plus, it isn’t the only useful thing about the software.
Bixby is also contextually aware of what users are currently doing in a certain application. For example, if you open up the Maps application and you search for a place to eat, then tap on the directions, Bixby will be contextually aware that you’ve searched for this restaurant and then sought out directions afterward, so you could then essentially tell Bixby to navigate you to your chosen destination. This is also just one example, but the same rules apply for things like composing an email or searching for an app in the Play Store. Say you’ve opened up the Play Store and then completed a search for a specific app, Bixby could enable you to download the app by simply asking it to install your selection.
On top of all of this Samsung has designed Bixby to be easy to use, but more specifically to have the ability to accept commands incompletely, meaning that you won’t necessarily have to tell it something in a set formula. With Google Assistant, there are set commands that need to be spoken in a certain way for the command to work, but with Bixby Samsung has designed it in such a way that users can state a command and Bixby will try its best to complete the task that the user is trying to give it, while requesting more information if it needs it. This way the command doesn’t just fall away, requiring the user to reissue the command correctly. Instead Bixby follows up by asking you to provide a little more detail, and once you do it will attempt to once again complete its given task. While Bixby might not have Google’s Knowledge Graph behind it to provide it with the vast set of information that you have with Google Assistant, and it’s still too early to tell how it will compare contextually to Google Assistant or how it will be able to complete commands and tasks with compatible “skills” like Alexa. One thing to remember though is that Bixby already has its own strengths and has plenty of potential.
Bixby is also integrated deeply with the camera in what Samsung is calling Bixby Vision. With Bixby Vision, a user can more or less identify whatever the camera sees for things like shopping, or generally just to get more information about a place or an object. You can interact with this feature either by speaking to Bixby or by using the Bixby Vision button that can be found inside of the camera user interface, so if you're already using the camera taking pictures and decide you want to find out the price of something, or learn more about it, you can tap the Bixby Vision button to get what you need. Bixby is also going to work for device control as Samsung wants it to be your go-to tool for interacting with as many connected devices in your home as possible. Samsung says Bixby will gradually be usable across numerous home appliances like your air conditioner and TV, though more appliance control and control of other smart home connected devices are likely to be incorporated in the future. It's early days for Bixby and although it's not capable of helping you do everything yet just by voice, Samsung is sure to expand its functionality as time goes on.