Does Samsung even understand how to launch a tech product?
On Friday, the South Korean tech giant finally let customers sign up for preview access to the eagerly anticipated Bixby personal assistant, which was supposed to launch with its brand new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. The devices even include a dedicated Bixby button.
Thus far, that button is only useful for access to Bixby Vision, which can identify some objects and products, and link you to shopping options.
The real Bixby will be less like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant with their answers to general interest questions and maybe a little more like Amazon Alexa, with voice control for various devices. The core difference between Bixby and other voice assistants, though, is that Bixby will be mostly Samsung hardware universe-focused, paying attention to what you’re doing on the phone and with other Samsung devices, trying to make access and control of contextual features more natural.
As Injong Rhee, CTO of Samsung Mobile and the architect behind Bixby told Tech Editor Pete Pachal in March, “Bixby is an intelligent user interface, emphasis… on ‘interface.’… A lot of agents are looking at being knowledgeable, meaning that you can ask questions like, ‘Who’s president of the U.S.?’ A lot of these are glorified extensions of search. What we are doing with Bixby, and what Bixby is capable of doing, is developing a new interface to our devices.”
So, Bixby will let you ask it to take a selfie and then tell it to share it with a friend. That’s access to both the camera hardware and your digital contacts. This control will only work, at least in the first release, with Samsung’s native apps. Even so, as of now, no other voice assistant works in quite the same way.
Of course, Bixby doesn’t work that way yet, either, at least not in the U.S. Some Bixby features (like the camera tool Bixby Vision) have been live on the Galaxy S8 phones since launch, but the voice assistant was reportedly held up here by a language barrier.
Now, though, it sounds like Samsung is this close to solving English for Bixby, and S8 owners can finally sign up for the chance to preview the assistant, which, according to Samsung, “will launch in the near future.”
That could be later today, tomorrow, or weeks from now.
This was supposed to be the Samsung’s game-changing feature, pointing the way to the company’s future. Hey Bixby, what’s taking so long?