Samsung Confirms New Virtual Assistant Bixby

Samsung’s InJong Rhee

Early last month, rumors swirled that Samsung was working on its own virtual assistant called Bixby. Today, Samsung confirmed these rumors with a blog post titled, “Bixby: A New Way to Interact with Your Phone.” Written by InJong Rhee, EVP and Head of R&D Software and Services, the company is calling Bixby, “a new intelligent interface” rather than a virtual, digital or voice assistant.

So, what does Bixby do?

The post didn’t offer specifics about Bixby’s actual functionality but it did say that the Galaxy S8, set to launch next week, will have a dedicated Bixby button on the side to help “remove friction” of using the new service.  The post also described three properties of its new assistant, which gave hints to what Bixby will be capable of:

  1. Completeness: “When an application becomes Bixby-enabled, Bixby will be able to support almost every task that the application is capable of performing using the conventional interface (ie. touch commands).”
  1. Context Awareness: “When using a Bixby-enabled application, users will be able to call upon Bixby at any time and it will understand the current context and state of the application and will allow users to carry out the current work-in-progress continuously.”
  1. Cognitive Tolerance: “Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal.”

So essentially, Bixby will help users make the most of their smart phones and  to complete tasks more quickly. Or as Dan Seifert from The Verge puts it, “Instead of being a database that you fire questions at or tell to do specific things, Bixby is meant to be a helper on your device, to make it easier to access to accomplish the litany of tasks that modern gadgets such as smartphones are capable of.” Samsung is looking to change how we use our smart phones with Bixby, by seamlessly blending touch and voice commands. “Everything you can do with a touch command, you can do with a voice command when using a Bixby-enabled application,” said Rhee.

Samsung-Bixby-Galaxy-S8Bixby Beyond the Phone

Samsung is looking to use Bixby beyond the smart phone as well. The blog also stated that it will be gradually rolled out to all of Samsung’s appliances. It wants Bixby to be “an interface for your life.” To achieve that goal, Bixby will have to be as good as Rhee says it is.

As Seifert, points out, “first impressions are everything when it comes to virtual assistants.” And the company needs to knock it out of the park with its Galaxy S8 after the explosive backlash (pun intended) it received for its recall of the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung’s take on a smartphone assistant is different than what we’ve seen from Siri or Cortana, and it’s promising a lot. We’ll have to wait until next week to see if it delivers.