Samsung's assistant Bixby in tough challenge to rivals

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
WASHINGTON
Published 02.04.2017 21:57
Updated 02.04.2017 21:58

Samsung's Bixby is the new kid on the block of personal digital assistants and is likely to face a rough reception in a neighborhood dominated by tech sector rivals. Bixby - introduced at Samsung's unveiling of Galaxy S8 smartphones - aims to help the South Korean giant break into a surging market for voice-activated virtual assistants, which includes Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana. The latest personal digital assistant distinguishes itself from competitors by using voice commands rather than touch to control handsets or applications, factoring in location awareness and image recognition.

The integrated camera function allows users to identify buildings, such as popular tourist sites, to access their websites and other information simply by snapping a photo. The photo recognition technology can also help users decipher menus in foreign languages, or find places to shop for specific items they photograph.

Yet Bixby is still a work in progress - the virtual entity did not speak at the New York demonstration. It has yet to be infused with technology from Samsung's recently acquired Viv, a company founded by creators of Apple's Siri.

Bixby will face competition from established players - even from Samsung's own phones, where users can choose to use Assistant, Cortana or Alexa. Richard Windsor, an independent analyst who writes the Radio Free Mobile blog, said Bixby may face problems because the "best-in-class Google Assistant" will be on the home button of the new phone, which is powered by Google-backed Android software. That means Bixby has a "fearsome competitor" on its own flagship device, according to the analyst.

"Bixby is trying to do things a little differently but careful assessment of what Samsung demonstrated shows a service that has very little intelligence at all," Windsor said.

Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates said Bixby might face challenges catching up with its rivals, which have been deployed for some time.

"You can't build these things overnight," Kay said. "It would take years to create something as developed as Siri."

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