Why it matters to you
Bixby, Samsung’s artificial intelligence-powered answer to Siri and the Google Assistant, gained a new feature this week in South Korea. On Monday, Samsung launched Bixby Voice, the voice-activated component of its digital helper, on Galaxy S8 devices in the company’s home country.
Bixby launched without Voice in April when the Galaxy S8 began shipping globally. It is rolling out to South Korean users in the form of an app update through Samsung Galaxy Apps, according to ZDNet, Galaxy S8 owners began receiving update notifications around 1 p.m. (KST).
Bixby Voice can respond to basic questions about the weather, upcoming meetings, sport scores, and movie showtimes, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. It works across apps like the Galaxy S8’s dialer, text messenger, settings menus, camera app, contacts list, and gallery, and performs actions like rotating misaligned photos and playing videos.
Bixby Voice is customizable, too. It lowers the volume when you hold the Galaxy S8 to your ear, and can change the gender of its voice on the fly.
That is not to suggest it is perfect. Bixby has to be enabled on an app-by-app basis — it doesn’t work with a lot of third-party apps just yet. And it only supports three languages, including Korean and British English. But Bixby may be about to get better.
In 2016, Samsung acquired Viv Labs, a company formed by the people who created Siri. “We’re bringing Viv Labs to grow that ecosystem in a scalable manner,” Injonh Rhee, head of research and development at Samsung Mobile Communications Business Group, told Digital Trends in an interview earlier in 2017. “Viv Labs is going to help out expanding into a third-party ecosystem — to make it easier to expose functions and perfect the experience for third parties.”
Bixby Voice is one of Bixby’s several prongs. The others include Bixby Reminders, which collates notes in a single place; Bixby Home, which shows contextual information from third-party apps in a card-like interface; and Bixby Vision, which uses machine learning to identify objects and supply relevant shopping and search results.
Galaxy S8 owners in other territories will not have to wait long for Bixby Voice. Samsung said North America and European territories will get Bixby Voice in the “spring,” and at least one report suggests that May is the target.