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How Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Will Boost Its Bixby Digital Assistant

Mar 20, 2017

Samsung plans to offer a unique smartphone feature to help its new voice controlled, digital assistant named Bixby to stand out from Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and the Google Assistant on Android.

The company's upcoming Galaxy S8 phone—and future devices—will have a dedicated button on the side to trigger Bixby, Samsung said on Monday. Based on technology Samsung acquired last year from Viv Labs, Bixby will also include common features from its competitors, such as letting users interact with apps or make phones calls by talking to their phone.

The Galaxy S8, which will be unveiled at the end of the month in New York, will have a "subset" of preinstalled apps that can be completely controlled via Bixby. Samsung also plans to release a set of software tools to allow third-party developers to integrate Bixby into their apps.

"We do have a bold vision of revolutionizing the human-to-machine interface, but that vision won’t be realized overnight," senior vice president Injong Rhee wrote in a blog post. "Ambition takes time."

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Samsung claimed Bixby will be able to control apps more extensively than other digital assistants. Apple (aapl) last year 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. Google (googl) has taken somewhat of a hybrid approach with what it calls actions for Google Assistant.

"Most existing agents currently support only a few selected tasks for an application and therefore confuse users about what works or what doesn’t work by voice command," Rhee wrote. "The completeness property of Bixby will simplify user education on the capability of the agent, making the behaviors of the agent much more predictable."

But third-party app developers will have to decide to add Bixby support. Since Apple announced Siri would work with non-Apple apps last year, few have added such support. On an iPhone with dozens of common apps installed, only six offered Siri support, including LinkedIn, Facebook (fb), and Uber.

Bixby will also be better at knowing the context around a command than other assistants and will be able to understand a greater range of different commands, Samsung said.

Samsung also promised eventually to add the artificially-intelligent helper to all of its appliances, from air conditioners to refrigerators.

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