Hello Bixby: Strengths and Weaknesses of Samsung New Digital Assistant Strategy

This week, Samsung unveiled Bixby as part of the Galaxy S8 announcement. Bixby is a new voice-powered assistant that will join Siri, Alexa, Google, Cortana and dozens of others in a highly competitive market.

Bixby is the evolution of Viv, an artificial intelligence(AI) assistant built by the creators of Siri. Early demos of Viv looked really impressive but there was always a question mark in terms of its ability to compete in the long term with incumbents such as Google, apple, Microsoft or Amazon that control a significant percentage of the market distribution. After acquiring Viv, Samsung went to work on a strategy to make voice a fundamental element of its next generation products. Bixby is the first release of that new strategy.

Based on the initial demos and content available, Bixby looks really sophisticated and even exhibits some unique characteristics compared to its more matured competitors. However, Samsung’s digital assistant has some very tangible limitations that it should overcome in order to remain competitive in the space.

3 Key Strengths of Samsung’s Bixby

1 — Context Aware Conversations

In the Galaxy S8, Bixby is aware of the user activity within its apps which allows of context rich conversations. Additionally, Bixby supports a large percentage of the S8 apps features and functions which enables it to take over using voice commands. This experience is drastically more integrated than what we’ve seen from Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Google Assistant up to this point.

2 — Distribution

The Galaxy S8 is just a starting point of Bixby. Very soon, we should count on seeing the digital assistant integrated into many different Samsun products ranging from bracelets to refrigerators. Samsung expertise and diversity on hardware is certainly unique asset of Bixby.

3 — Cognitive Tolerance

I really like this concept! Cognitive tolerance represents Bixby’s flexibility to understand incomplete or confusing voice commands. The assistant seems to doa solid job asking additional questions back to the user in order to determine the right actions to take.

3 Key Limitations of Samsung’s Bixby

1 — Serverless Extensibility

One of the coolest capabilities of platforms such as Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant is their ability to incorporate new skill’s logic via serverless computing functions delivered by platforms such as AWS Lambda or Azure Functions. Samsung’s serverless computing skills are very limited compared to its competitors and that could have an impact of Bixby’s long term evolution.

2 — NLP Platform

another limitation of Bixby is the absence of an open NLP-AI platform similar to Microsoft LUIS or Google’s API.ai which can be used to implement sophisticated conversational interactions and add new skills that can be trained and improved over time.

3 — Cognitive Services

Technologies such as Cortana, Alexa or Google Assistant not only count with robust NLP capabilities but with a suite of cognitive services in relevant areas such as image processing, speech translation or video analytics. Samsung has some catch up to do in the space.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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