Samsung Quietly Rolls Out New Bixby Design
Samsung has begun a staggered release of a new interface for the Bixby virtual assistant, including a new icon, first spotted and shared on Reddit. Despite the notable change in Bixby’s look, Samsung has yet to announce anything official about the change, even as Bixby’s future shape, or even existence, has been called into question over the last few months.
In the video shared on Reddit, the most notable change in Bixby’s look is that it has shrunk from covering the whole screen to just a section at the bottom. The background is faded like when Google Assistant is activated, and a horizontal bar appears to indicate the voice assistant is listening, similar to both Google Assistant and Siri. Even when not listening, Bixby’s icon looks different, somewhat flat compared to the earlier version. Samsung has adjusted the Bixby page’s look when it is open as well, showing three buttons on the bottom of the screen. There’s a home button, a keyboard, and a microphone, for text and voice commands, respectively. Also, the page is now black and gray instead of blue. While the new look may be part of the Bixby Voice 3.0 update making its way to people’s phones, they don’t seem to be coming out in tandem.
Giving Bixby a makeover could be a boon for Samsung’s voice assistant, but it won’t stop the questions around how the AI will factor into the next generation of devices. Earlier this month, Samsung announced it was shutting down Bixby Vision, the augmented reality feature of its voice assistant that can measure objects and simulate objects in a room, though the text reader, translator, and the accessibility feature that describes a room for people with impaired vision will apparently remain. The new interface also has to be seen 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. 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.
Bixby of the Future
Reports about Samsung dropping Bixby in favor of Google Assistant felt very premature in July, but stories that came afterward only added to the uncertainty surrounding Bixby and Samsung’s confidence in its virtual assistant. However, in public, Samsung has been loudly declaring its belief in Bixby and its presence on the company’s devices, expanding access to older Galaxy smartphones that had previously used the now-shuttered S Voice digital assistant. Bixby’s new look follows the release of new features like celebrity voices and Bixby’s integration of Netflix. There’s even Bixby-focused hardware in the form of the Galaxy Buds Live, bean-shaped earbuds built to take advantage of Bixby more than anything else. Bixby already made it through a year of failure, rebranding as Bixby 2.0, after the first iteration arrived, failed, and went through a revision and re-release. A more user-friendly way to interact with Bixby could add another brick in the road to long-term stability for the voice assistant, even as it mimics Google Assistant and Siri in operation.