Samsung Shutting Down Bixby Vision AR Features After Staff Cuts
Samsung is shutting down Bixby Vision, the augmented reality feature of its voice assistant. Pulling up Bixby Vision on the camera prompts a notice about a change in the service saying Samsung will end support for the AR features at the end of October. The end of AR is the latest indicator of Samsung’s shifting plans for Bixby during staff layoffs.
The augmented reality aspects of Bixby Vision included the ability to measure objects, simulate wearing makeup or placing furniture in a room, and creating AR versions of emoji and stickers. Those are the capabilities that Bixby Vision will no longer offer at the end of the month. Other aspects of Bixby Vision will still work, like the text reader, translator, and the accessibility feature that describes a room for people with impaired vision. The voice commands related to the remaining Bixby Vision features appear to be staying in place as well.
Though it may not be directly related, it’s hard not to see the AR shutdown in the context of Samsung’s decision to close down the Bixby developer marketing team at the end of September. That team worked to recruit Bixby capsule developers, which could include Bixby Vision features. In turn, that news followed stories of other Bixby departures, including Voicebot’s exclusive report from July that Adam Cheyer, Viv Labs co-founder, and Samsung vice president leading Bixby development, had left the company.
At the same time, as Bixby’s focus seems to be narrowing, Viv Labs, the acquisition from which Bixby was born, seems to be surviving. Viv still supports a team of engineers and developer recruiters. Still, Bixby deciding to limit its features adds another layer to the rumors of the voice assistant’s possible demise or absorption by Google Assistant. The reports in July about Samsung dropping Bixby in favor of Google Assistant felt very premature in July, but the subsequent changes don’t exactly shout about Samsung’s confidence in its virtual assistant. For one thing, despite Bixby gaining some ground, Google Assistant is well-ahead winning when it comes to user numbers on Samsung devices.
And Samsung has been publicly very bullish on Bixby, expanding access to older Galaxy smartphones that had previously used the now-shuttered S Voice digital assistant and continuing to roll out new features like celebrity voices and integrating Netflix into Bixby. The end of AR support for Bixby Vision could just be a tactical decision about those particular features, but even if it is a sign of Bixby’s impending demise, it won’t be a quick end. S Voice survived through the first year of Bixby 2.0, after the first iteration arrived, failed, and went through a revision and re-release.