If you're familiar with Samsung's underwhelming S Voice interface, you may be less than enthused about a new virtual assistant from the Korean technology giant. But according to Injong Rhee, Samsung's head of research and development, the new virtual assistant "Bixby" is going to be an integral part of the upcoming Galaxy S8 phones, and eventually the entire fleet of Samsung products.
Citing a need for machines to adapt to humans (rather than the other way around) Rhee explains that the long-term goal of the Bixby voice-controlled interface is to make all devices easier to use. Rhee cautions that this won't happen overnight, but that Bixby will start out with several ingrained advantages.
He claims that the Bixby experience is more complete, contextually aware and conversational than other virtual assistants like Siri or Cortana. Instead of only being able to complete a few tasks on each application, Bixby-enabled apps can be controlled almost entirely via voice. Bixby will also be able to understand the context and state of the application you're using, so you can switch back and forth between the touch interface and voice control. Rhee also says that Bixby won't be restricted to specific voice commands – users will be able to speak in more natural language.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 series phones will have a dedicated Bixby button on the side of the phone for easy access. Bixby functionality will be integrated into a few preinstalled apps to start with, while Samsung plans to "eventually release" an SDK so third-party developers can make Bixby-enabled software.
After its arrival on phones, Samsung envisions a future where its entire fleet of smart home appliances is Bixby-enabled.
The Galaxy S8 series phones, the first devices to include the Bixby virtual assistant, will be unveiled at Samsung's March 29 Unpacked event. We'll be on the ground in New York and will put its capabilities to the test.