Samsung Adds “Hey Sammy” Wake Word to Bixby, But Only on the Galaxy Home Mini
Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant can now be awoken by saying, “Hey, Sammy or “Sammy-ya,” but only on the Galaxy Home Mini smart speaker. The Galaxy Home Mini is still exclusively available in South Korea, raising questions about why the new wake word isn’t available on the many smartphones worldwide that use Bixby and what that portends for the voice assistant.
The new wake word was announced by Samsung on its South Korean website as an alternative to the standard “Hi, Bixby” wake word used to get the attention of the AI until now. Complaints about pronunciation may have prompted the additional option on the smart speaker. Sammy is easy to say, to the point that it’s surprising it hasn’t been an option until now, especially in English speaking countries. Samsung acknowledged that fact and the friendliness of the name Sammy but didn’t commit to any rollout of the extra wake word. For now, the company has said it is just reviewing such plans.
A new wake word option for all Bixby users might assuage some of the concerns fans of the voice assistant have about its future. A recent redesign of the voice assistant’s interface came out without any fanfare and little acknowledgment by Samsung. The new look for Bixbyfollowed the shutdown of Bixby Vision, the augmented reality feature of its voice assistant that can measure objects and simulate objects in a room. The human team has shrunk too, with the Bixby developer marketing team, which worked to recruit Bixby capsule developers, closing at the end of September. And Adam Cheyer, Viv Labs co-founder, and Samsung vice president leading Bixby development, left the company in July.
Though reports about Samsung dropping Bixby in favor of Google Assistant felt very premature in July, these stories 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.
But, missing from those new missives are the smart speakers that would give Bixby a firmer foundation. The Galaxy Home Mini launched earlier this year in South Korea with Bixby, but no plan to ship elsewhere. An entry-level version smart speaker might be popular, but exists in a vacuum without the Galaxy Home smart speaker, supposedly aimed to compete with very high-end audio equipment and first demoed in August 2018. Until those devices come out for a broader market, there are only going to be a relatively tiny number of people asking their voice assistant to “play it again, Sammy.”