Samsung Acquires AI Startup Kngine to Enhance Bixby
Samsung reports 10 million users of its Bixby voice assistant, but has received little praise from users or technology reviewers. The current Bixby version was built largely in-house and Samsung has now made a third acquisition that may improve performance and features according to Sam Mobile. The previous two acquisitions were Viv and Fluenty. Viv technology focused on voice and Fluenty on messaging. The new acquisition is a San Francisco-base startup originally founded in Cairo called Kngine that is focused on search. The company website states:
“Kngine crawls the world wide web, enterprise documents, books, FAQs and even customer service logs to build biologically plausible knowledge representations by combining state of the art Deep Learning and Knowledge-based AI methodologies. Kngine understands the questions, breaking them down into sub-questions and dependencies, and forms a solution plan. Kngine then searches its knowledge graph, combing knowledge from millions of documents to find thousands of possible answers, in the process collecting evidence for each possible answer and finally ranking them and presenting the most plausible answer.”
According to CrunchBase, Kngine was founded in 2009 and had previously raised only $775,000. However, one of its venture round investors in 2014 was none other than SamsungNEXT Ventures.
Putting Together the Pieces for a Generalized Voice Assistant
The Kngine acquisition emphasizes the breadth and complexity of building a generalized voice assistant. You need natural language processing (NLP), but you also need to answer queries once the question is understood. Siri and Google Assistant use Google’s search and knowledge graph for these tasks. Alexa and Cortana use Bing. Samsung may want to reduce its dependency for this core function on Google. In addition, having your own search solution means you can use it on localized, personal or private data sets that you may not want to grant access to Google to crawl. A new era in search is forming and Samsung may want to have an in-house option even if it still relies on Google or Bing knowledge graphs for many generalized queries.
In addition, multi-modal assistants such as Google Assistant are showing that text will be a part of the assistant UI going forward. Samsung’s Fluenty acquisition was almost certainly made with an eye to this development and Kngine could offer additional features applied to messaging and text communication through Bixby.
Will Kngine Land in Bixby 2.0?
Samsung’s DJ Koh recently indicated that Bixby 2.0 may be available in late 2018. The 2.0 version is expected to both expand Bixby’s capabilities and make it easier for third-parties to develop integrations and voice apps. Kngine search functionality would fit that strategy, but Samsung has been very slow to roll out new technology from acquired companies. As a result, you are likely to see some features from Viv and Fluenty but not Kngine in the next Bixby release.