Rather than create its own personal assistant for Galaxy smartphones, Samsung is just buying one. The company has announced it's acquiring Viv Labs, a startup formed by the creators of Apple's Siri personal assistant, for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal is being reported both by TechCrunch and CNBC and has been confirmed directly in this Medium post. Viv Labs publicly showed off its next-generation artificial intelligence assistant (simply called Viv) back in May. The product was able to successfully handle a series of complex user requests, wowing an audience at Disrupt NY.
The trio behind Viv — Adam Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, and Chris Brigham — gradually departed Apple following the company's acquisition of Siri in 2012 and have been working on Viv in the years since. Now they'll be under Samsung, but Viv Labs will operate as an independent company, according to TechCrunch.
Still, Samsung is buying the team and its technology for a reason. Viv will provide services to Samsung and the company's many platforms. A powerful, intelligent integrated into Samsung's countless gadgets could help position the company against Siri, Amazon's Alexa, the Google assistant, and a slew of "bots" from other companies. "Our focus is really more device-centric," Samsung mobile unit CTO Injong Rhee told Recode in an interview. "How do we revolutionize how users interact with our devices and our appliances?" The technology is likely to appear in Samsung's 2017 family of Galaxy flagships before expanding to other devices like TVs.
This move also continues Samsung's ongoing efforts to break from any dependence on Google services; Samsung Pay competes directly with Android Pay, and now Viv could be Samsung's answer to the big feature in Google's new hardware family. Samsung is fully committed to AI, according to the post from Viv Labs CEO Dag Kittlaus:
Samsung is setting its sights on becoming a major player in software and services, and specifically AI. Samsung Pay has already proven to be one of the most successful mobile payment platforms in the market and SmartThings is another software acquisition signaling their conviction. And they have installed a new cadre of senior SW-savvy management stretching all the way to the top with a mission. You will soon come to see the utter seriousness of Samsung’s intentions. And like us, they aim to win.