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Everything we think we know about ‘Bixby’ — Samsung’s AI assistant for the Galaxy S8

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Samsung’s next flagship, the Galaxy S8, is due to be revealed some time at the end of March, and it seems a new AI assistant will be a cornerstone of the company’s pitch. Samsung executives confirmed last November that a fully fledged AI assistant on the S8 would differentiate the device from its competitors, but we don’t know much more than that.

Voice commands have come back into vogue in the last year, after an uptick in interest in Amazon’s Echo and the launch of Google’s Assistant. But we’ve yet to see an assistant that really fulfills its promise on mobile. (Sorry, Siri — you’re just too dumb.) Could Samsung be the one to pull it off? Here’s what we know — and what’s been rumored — so far:

  • If trademarks are to be believed, the assistant’s name will be Bixby (or perhaps just “Bix”). The name “Kestra” has also been registered, leading some to suggest there will be male and female variants of the assistant
  • The underlying tech will come from Viv Labs, a startup founded by the creators of Siri that Samsung bought last year
  • The S8 might have a dedicated button for launching the assistant
  • As per Samsung execs, the assistant will integrate with third-party services, but will also reportedly be able to control “almost all” native apps preinstalled on the S8
  • Users will reportedly be able to use the S8’s cameras to conduct visual searches. This could mean optical character recognition (scanning a document and searching for key terms) but also object recognition — for example, searching for consumer goods by snapping a picture
  • If that’s the case, then this might be an easy way to buy products, as Bixby is rumored to be able to process payments
  • The software will reportedly support seven or eight languages (that’s more than Google Assistant)
  • And the underlying AI tech (or Bixby itself) is also slated to show up in other Samsung devices, like home appliances and wearables

If all these rumors are true, then Bixby (or Bix, or Kestra) will be a powerful assistant. The last bullet point above is especially interesting, as Samsung is in a unique position of being able to integrate its AI platform not only with a mobile device, but also gadgets in your home. So far, though, AI assistants have promised more than they’ve delivered, and we’ll have to wait and see what Bixby can really do when Samsung unveils the S8, reportedly at the end of March.