Samsung vowed to open a new artificial intelligence technology hub in France, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday, with the move being announced following his meeting with the tech giant's Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn. Reuters reports Samsung is planning to expand its team of 15 AI researchers in Paris to 50 scientists by the end of the year, then double on that figure shortly afterward. The South Korean original equipment manufacturer already operates AI institutes in its home country and the United States, with the company recently also increasing its focus on the emerging field through a range of smaller bets on a wide variety of startups, both through investments and outright acquisitions.
Samsung is primarily seeking to leverage its AI push by improving its own products and services, with the company's mobile chief DJ Koh taking to this year's iteration of Mobile World Congress to confirm the conglomerate's plans to launch Bixby 2.0 in the second half of the year. The significantly enhanced version of the digital assistant may be ready for a commercial debut in time for the launch of the Galaxy Note 9 Android phablet, the executive said. Outside of the realm of smartphones, Samsung is also looking to integrate Bixby into a broader range of its other electronics including TVs and refrigerators. The company's first smart speaker powered by the AI companion is planned to be introduced in the second half of 2018 as well, as per numerous statements previously provided by company officials. The gadget meant to rival the likes of the Google Home and Amazon's Echo lineup is being developed in collaboration with Samsung's subsidiary Harman.
President Macron is familiar with Mr. Sohn from his tenure as the French Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, a role he filled over a two-year period ending late August of 2016. In the summer of 2015, the then-minister welcomed Samsung's decision to partner with a number of French startups and open a new R&D office in Paris, having specifically thanked Mr. Sohn for the initiative via Twitter. Besides Samsung, Japanese tech giant Fujitsu will also be making a major AI investment in France in the near term, the President's office said yesterday.