Samsung unveils Bixby, its Siri competitor

For those who are keeping track, this would officially be Samsung's second attempt. Just look at how disappointing S Voice has been for the past few years.

So, Samsung's giving it another go, and this time it's attempting a different strategy. Samsung also thinks that Bixby won't be so intimidating to use, as it'll work through partial commands and won't hold users to such specific standards, like other assistants. It's an interface. It's meant to everything you could possibly do by touch, but with voice. "The button will be used for Bixby in the long run".

The final focus of Samsung was cognitive tolerance, which refers to Bixby's flexibility in understanding commands that do not adhere to a specific script or are uttered using specific language.

There might be some points of hesitation, though.

Samsung confirms that Bixby will have a permanent place on "the next device", the Galaxy S8, with a "dedicated Bixby button that will be located on the side" of the phone.

As the company explains it, Bixby will be able to control nearly everything you could do in an app with a touchscreen. Apple (aapl) a year ago added software tools for third-party apps to support Siri, while Amazon (amzn) has long allowed outside software developers to add functions (or in Amazon parlance: "skills") to Alexa, though in a more limited way.

This is only really an issue because first impressions are important for just about any feature tied to a smartphone. Bixby will allow users to weave various modes of interactions including touch or voice at any context of the application. Bixby is contextual, sort of like the essentially defunct Google On Tap. This means that whatever task a Bixby-enabled app is capable of performing, the user should be able to command Bixby to perform any supported task. That button makes it easy to access Bixby. If it doesn't understand something, it will ask you for additional information until it can finally get a grasp on what is happening around the place. That's a big gamble to take on Samsung's part, so one has to hope it takes off in the right direction for them.

Samsung knows it can't compete with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others when it comes to raw machine learning power and putting vast amounts of information at your fingertips, so it's using Bixby to solve a simpler task that those companies have largely ignored. I also believe that this is the next logical step for the other major players in the digital personal assistant space. A "handful" of system apps on the phone will be Bixby-enabled, meaning that users will be able to control them with voice commands.

After months of speculation that its new mobile assistant would be called Bixby, Samsung has now confirmed that it will indeed be called Bixby, which the company says is "fundamentally different" to the myriad voice-powered assistants already out there, according to a press release.

How much you'll get out of Bixby, should you buy an S8, will vary depending on your own needs, and it won't be super powerful at first.

  • Carolyn Briggs