Samsung Buys Egyptian AI Startup To Fuel Bixby Ambitions

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Samsung acquired a complete stake in artificial intelligence startup Kngine, The Investor reported Tuesday, citing an official statement from the company. The financial details of the move weren’t disclosed but the Egyptian firm is now set to be fully integrated into Samsung’s corporate family, with the Seoul-based tech giant paying off all of its previous investors. Advertised as “the most intelligent AI Engine,” the future of Kngine’s flagship product remains unclear, though the startup is understood to have been primarily acquired to fuel Samsung’s Bixby ambitions. Its search engine has so far been offered to companies looking for a highly advanced, machine learning-based solution for querying vast amounts of data.

Founded in 2013, Kngine claims its service was devised to mimic the manner in which human brain collects, manages, and pulls information from memory. Coupled with the addition of massive cloud-based computational power, the platform is said to be an extremely capable tool for performing a wide variety of digital searches. The technology is now expected to be integrated into Bixby going forward. Samsung already invested in Kngine in 2014 through a joint financial push its U.S. venture capital division Samsung Next made with Vodafone Ventures Egypt. The unit ended up acquiring a 100-percent stake in Kngine last October but it’s presently unclear whether the startup’s technologies have already been integrated into Bixby to any degree. Even if they weren’t, they’re expected to be supported by Bixby 2.0, a major revision of the digital assistant Samsung is hoping to launch alongside the Galaxy Note 9 in late summer, as recently revealed by its mobile chief DJ Koh.

The acquisition is understood to be smaller than Samsung’s 2016 takeover of U.S. AI startup Viv Labs which is believed to have largely developed the initial version of Bixby. The Viv purchase set Samsung back over $222 million, with the company later going on to invest in a number of other AI firms such as Expect Labs, Vicarious, and Reactor Labs. Samsung still sees Bixby as the centerpiece of a highly advanced AI ecosystem it’s hoping to start offering in the future. The tech giant is set to release a Bixby-enabled speaker in the second half of the year and will also be integrating Bixby into vehicle infotainment systems going forward, according to its recent announcements.