Samsung Refrigerator with Bixby Offers Insight into Ambient Computing Future

The Korean publication Pulse is reporting that Samsung has begun integrating its Bixby virtual assistant into the Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators. Previously purchased Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators will have access to the new Samsung assistant through an automatic software upgrade. Voice and AI computing access is quickly moving past smart speakers to inhabit other devices in our home and work environments.

Bixby Assistant in Samsung Refrigerator

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Samsung Stakes Out Platform Technology

When Samsung acquired Viv in 2016, Voicebot pointed out that the company’s voice assistant and AI strategies were about more than smartphones and keeping pace with Apple and Google. Samsung has a large appliance and device portfolio that soon would serve as access points for AI and information access. The question for Samsung was whether it would simply adopt a voice and AI platform from Google or Amazon, or try to develop its own solution. Samsung had tried on two occasions to introduce its own smartphone operating system but failed and remains saddled to Google’s Android OS today. AI and voice represent a new platform shift and a new opportunity for the Korean tech giant to chart its own course.

Ambient Computing Coming to an Appliance Near You

Many people had assumed that mobile devices were not only the present, but also the future of computing and information access. However, another paradigm is emerging. People will still carry personal mobile devices for the foreseeable future, but they will increasingly have access to computing resources through devices in the places they inhabit. There are two reasons for this:

  1. There is utility in adding intelligence to some devices
  2. Once there is connectivity to the cloud from a device, it is easy to provide access to other AI and information services
  3. The cost of the infrastructure to add computing interfaces to devices is very low

First, the utility question. It is correct that not every device needs AI to work better and in many cases it may inhibit ease of use. However, there are some uses that people may care about. For example, the smart refrigerators can monitor temperature and energy consumption, reorder food and track spoilage. Bixby’s image recognition and AI will be able to identify the foods and brands in your refrigerator automatically.

Second, the connectivity to cloud computing resources means that the refrigerator or other appliance can deliver up useful information. In the kitchen that may be recipe and cooking instruction, but it also means access to weather, calendar and other features. Do you need this functionality in your phone, on a smart speaker and an appliance? No. However, you may relocate your smart speaker to the bedroom if you have all of the same capabilities already in a kitchen appliance.

Finally, the cost of hardware and advent of voice assistants is minimal to add these features once an appliance is connected. Component costs have fallen and cloud computing reduces the need for local computing resources.

Ambient Computing is About Convenience

Much of technology progress today is about extending convenience to consumers. Ambient computing is the next phase of convenience. Mobile meant you no longer needed to go to a desktop to accessing computing resources and could have connectivity nearly everywhere. Ambient computing means you will no longer have to take something out of your purse or look at a small screen. Computing is immediately accessible wherever you happen to be, hands free and often eyes free.

Samsung’s Bixby introduction to refrigerators is just a first step. Expect to see a lot more devices with AI access that people chuckle about as unnecessary and eventually incorporate seamlessly into their daily lives. Computing everywhere is where we are headed.

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